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New Jersey sues Ford over hazardous waste dumping on Native American land

N.J. sues Ford over hazardous waste dumping on Native American land
N.J. sues Ford over hazardous waste dumping on Native American land 02:09

RINGWOOD, N.J. -- New Jersey is suing the Ford Motor Company over hazardous waste dumping on Native American land in Passaic County since the 1960s. 

Thursday, CBS2's Nick Caloway spoke with people who live there about the toxic pollution's impact.

In the hills of Ringwood, a toxic sludge has quietly lingered in the soil and water for decades. 

"This indigenous community was literally used as a dumping ground. That's the definition of environmental injustice," said Shawn LaTourette, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. 

LaTourette said the state is seeking compensation from Ford to repair degraded natural resources. 

The automaker started disposing thousands of tons of toxic paint sludge in the forests and mines around Ringwood in the 1960s, officials said.

There have been plenty of attempts to clean up the hazardous waste, including one in 2006.

The Ford plant in nearby Mahwah closed long ago, but the pollution remains. Toxins like lead and arsenic can be found in the soil.

Many of the 200 people who live nearby are members of the Ramapough Lenape Nation. They've lived on the land for generations and said the toxic dumping has killed some and left others with chronic illness. 

"I lost a list of relatives to cancer. I have irritable bowel syndrome, I have psychiatric issues," said Angel Stefancik.

"Today brings us the promise of a new day," said Chief Vincent Mann of the Turtle Clan of the Ramapough Lenape Nation.

Mann said the lawsuit brings some hope for justice. 

"Justice for our people is a clean environment in which to begin to heal before we actually can begin to thrive," Mann said. 

But many tribal members are skeptical anything will be done anytime soon.

In a statement, Ford told us the company takes environmental responsibility seriously and cannot comment further because company officials just received the lawsuit. 

Experts said the amount of money the lawsuit is seeking is likely millions of dollars. 

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