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Letter to Bill Roderick, Acting Inspector General of the EPA Re: Ringwood Site Cleanup Issues, Possibility of Environmental Racism

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

NJ Lawmakers QUESTION EPA ON RINGWOOD SITE CLEANUP ISSUES, POSSIBILITY OF ENVIRONMENTAL RACISIM

U.S. Sens. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) sent a letter today to Bill Roderick, Acting Inspector General (IG) of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), asking his office to answer specific questions regarding the problems surrounding the cleanup of the Ringwood Mines/Landfill Superfund Site and the possible role environmental racism may have played.

The letter follows the release of a report from the IG's office regarding the cleanup process, and comes in response to several answers on environmental injustice by Wade Najjum, EPA Assistant Inspector General for Program Evaluation, at a House Environment and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee hearing earlier this month. (A COPY OF THE LETTER FOLLOWS.)

The three lawmakers, who initially asked for a review by the EPA Inspector General's office of the unacceptable cleanup process, also noted their concern with the methodology used in the investigation. They asked the IG's office to examine the results of the failed process on the Native American population, and make a determination on whether environmental justice issues played a role in EPA's performance.

Mr. Bill Roderick
Acting Inspector General
Office of the Inspector General
US Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW (2410T)
Washington, DC 20460


Dear Acting Inspector General Roderick:

We are writing with continuing concern for the proper cleanup of the Ringwood Mines/Landfill Superfund Site. As you know, all three of us initially made the request that the Inspector General (IG) of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigate the unacceptable cleanup at the site.

Earlier this month, at a hearing of the House Environment and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee, a series of questions on environmental injustice were posed to Mr. Wade Najjum, Assistant Inspector General for Program Evaluation at the EPA. Mr. Najjum stated that there was, "no evidence that EPA actions or decision-making were affected by the area's racial, cultural, or socioeconomic status," but he could not rule out the possibility that race played a role.

We remain concerned that EPA has yet to properly explain why there were so many problems with the Ringwood clean up. After reading both reports prepared by the IG and then evaluating Mr. Najjum's testimony, many questions still remain as to why the EPA performed so poorly with respect to the Ringwood site.

Because of our continued concern that environmental racism influenced the agency's actions, we would ask the IG to answer the following questions. Why was there no comprehensive site investigation of Ford's clean up prior to removing the Ringwood Superfund site from the National Priority List in 1994? Why was EPA not compliant with community relations requirements? Why was there only limited documentation of ongoing site visits and discussions with state managers as EPA's Records Management Manual requires?

As you well know, no other Superfund site in the nation has been removed from the Superfund list and then added at a later date after it has been determined that the site is nowhere close to being fully cleaned up. There has to be a reason for this historic failure, and we believe the fact that many of the area residents are Native Americans is a major factor in EPA's poor performance.

Furthermore, while we commend the IG for conducting its investigation, we disagree with the methodology it used in determining whether racial, cultural, or socioeconomic status played a roll in EPA's inability to properly remediate the Ringwood site. The IG simply set the bar too high in determining whether environmental racism is to blame. Rather than searching for a motive for EPA's negligence, the IG should be looking at the results and the affects of the unacceptably poor clean up on the Native American population. We would ask that you review the situation again from this perspective in making a determination of whether environmental justice issues played a role in EPA's performance.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

FRANK PALLONE, JR.
Members of Congress

FRANK R. LAUTENBERG
United States Senate


ROBERT MENENDEZ
United States Senate

cc: Wade Najjum, Assistant Inspector General for Program Evaluation, U.S. EPA


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