Twin Cities' Site Contamination Could Cost FoMoCo Big Bucks

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

Ford's Twin Cities production plant in Highland Park, Minnesota– one of three that build the Ford Ranger pickup– is slated for closure in 2008. FoMoCo's been looking to sell the 138-acre parcel to local property developers. The site, which still has tunnels where the company mined sandstone to make glass windshields, occupies one of St. Paul's nicer neighborhoods. Only The Minneapolis St.Paul Star Tribune reports that the site is awash with toxins: waste oil and solvents, paint sludges, batteries, gasoline and diesel. There are over 40 identified "hot spots" and the groundwater ain't too healthy neither. Stefanie Denby, communications and marketing director for Ford Land, promised a thorough clean-up: "We take our environmental responsibility very seriously." Given the enormous cost and effort required to "remediate" large, heavily polluted sites, the company's seriousness could push the land deal from the profit to the liability side of Ford's ledger.

Robert Farago
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  • Robert Schwartz Robert Schwartz on Jul 30, 2007

    Ford has more environmental problems than just that one: Decades After a Plant Closes, Waste Remains by Ron Stodghill on July 29, 2007 in the NYTimes: ... From the mid-1950s to the late 1970s, Ford operated an assembly plant in northern New Jersey, in nearby Mahwah, that cranked out millions of passenger cars. Ford closed the plant in 1980, after dumping what the E.P.A. describes as thousands of tons of paint sludge and other waste in Upper Ringwood, a community of about 350 working-class residents located in the foothills of the Ramapo Mountains. A few years later, the Environmental Protection Agency identified Upper Ringwood for priority cleanup under its Superfund program. Ford, deemed responsible for the pollution, spent the next five years assessing and removing sludge from a 500-acre site that included 50 homes. Satisfied with Ford’s cleanup, the E.P.A. dropped Upper Ringwood as a Superfund site in 1994, having determined, according to a public notice, that “no further cleanup by responsible parties is appropriate” and that “the current risk posed by the site is within an acceptable range.” Yet recently, based on Ford’s and the E.P.A.’s own recent follow-up studies of the soil and groundwater in Upper Ringwood, those conclusions unraveled and became fodder in what environmental experts say is now among the messiest industrial cleanup efforts in Superfund’s 27-year history. ...

  • Miked Miked on Jul 30, 2007

    Re Robert Schwartz' comment: According to the linked article, at the time Ford was dumping the waste it was legal and the Town supervisors knew about it. Now, I'm not going to be a Ford apologist, but in this case, I don't think they should be held responsible for the clean up, and I think they did more than what should have been required for them. They had permission and they didn't secretly dump this stuff. And the town said it was legal and had records of it happening. Then decades later someone decides to plow over the sludge and build some homes on there. So who's really to blame for the homes being on a toxic waste dump? Well there are two parties: 1) The developer who built the homes over the sludge. If they would have done their due diligence when making the development, they would have seen in the open public town records that the site used to be a waste dump for Ford (and others). So either they didn't look at the history, or they knew about it and didn't tell anyone, both are unacceptable. And 2) the people who bought the homes. I'm in the middle of buying a home (my second time through the process) and it's really up to me to do my due diligence and go through all the legal info to make sure that what I'm buying is what I want. I have documents dating back to 1870 when my land was part of a mining clam that I have to go through. And it's no one's responsibility other than mine to make sure that my property wasn't used for a toxic waste dump (or any thing else that might jeopardize my safety or heath). Of course, I only have access to public records, so I have no history of illegal dumping, and I'm assuming that risk. You can't rely on anyone else to tell you the truth, so before you make the biggest purchase of your life you need to make sure what you're paying for is what you're getting. If Ford had been illegally dumping in Upper Ringwood, then the residents would have a valid complaint.

  • Bill E. Bobb Bill E. Bobb on Jul 31, 2007

    This is new? Hardly. There's the "de-comissioning" of the Edison, NJ Ranger plant; even better, the mess left behind by the Mahwah, NJ plant. See the Bergen, NJ Record's excellent view @

  • RobertSD RobertSD on Aug 04, 2007

    This is a problem with basically anyone who ran a plant in the U.S. before 1980. EPA rules were terrible before Carter and the results are brown sites everywhere. At Upper Ringwood, Ford's work was cleared by the EPA after they cleaned, and when additional complaints were filed, Ford cleaned again, and the EPA signed off again. In the case of Upper Ringwood, it sounds more like a litigator after some money. You know, where they sue for $100 million to help the people who bought houses over a known toxic waste dump and then take 75% of it for themselves? Sort of like the "Honda lies about its mileage" claim despite the fact that they are using EPA esimates. Again, the truth is that any factory that has been around for some time will have these problems because until about 30 years ago, no one really understood or cared about the risks.