“Toxic Legacy” had all the drama of a Hollywood script. The scary part: every word of it was true.
“Given the complexity of tracking so many disparate story lines — it was as if the writers for The Sopranos and Erin Brockovich got together — the team delivered a clear and cogent indictment of one of the most powerful companies in America,” said Editor Frank Scandale of The Record. “Government officials could no longer hide behind empty promises. A community that had been ignored for 30 years had hope.”
It’s everywhere, this paint.
Chunks of it jut from the driveway of a house in Ringwood where a child got lead poisoning. It is so toxic, he and his mom moved out.
Piles of it, weathered and gray and wrinkled like an elephant’s s skin cling to a hillside. Nearby is the home of a boy who died of a rare tumor.
On the other side of the hill a spring-fed stream once ran clear and fresh. For generations, it quenched the thirst of the mountain’s residents, the Rampoughs. Now the water is bright orange and laced with cancer-causing benzene.
The staff of the New Jersey-based paper uncovered the somber story of Ringwood, N.J., a city mutated by the irresponsible waste dumping of a Ford assembly plant.
The Record’s five-part series was a living and breathing text about a dying community, complex enough to make classification a challenge.
“It was more than an expose, more than an original and interpretive report, more than a stand-alone investigation into company reports and documents,” said the judges. “It was all there, and assertion journalism as well, for scorning the legacy of toxic waste the report traced to Ford.”
As soon as the story hit New Jersey newsstands, the state government reacted swiftly, promising that Ringwood would not remain a wasteland.
“Government at last seems to be taking its responsibilities here seriously,” said Tim Nostrand, assistant managing editor of The Record. “State officials, who before had complained about federal actions but ultimately signed off on them, now are taking independent steps. The EPS relisting the site should work to improve the chances of a complete cleanup. Of course, the proof will be in the pudding.”