Christie DEP Rejected Scientists’ Recommendations On Drinking Water Standard for Carcinogenic Heavy Metal Chromium
Press Office Attacks Critic
“Hate that fucker,” Drewniak wrote to David Wildstein, the chief Bridgegate conspirator. “I want to beat him with a lead pipe…That would put everyone on notice.” Tom Moran column, “Christie’s Pals Want To Kill Me“
Does the NJ press corps know the difference between rhetoric and reality? Do they care more about their own personal pecadillos than public health?
The ugly lead pipe metaphor -which got saturation media play – was obviously just nasty rhetoric.
But failure to regulate known carcinogens in public water supplies actually does kill people – and it got virtually squat in media circles.
Although you wouldn’t know it from reading the NJ newspapers, NJ has a long and sordid history with respect to public health risks and lax DEP regulation of the toxic heavy metal chromium, see:
- NEW JERSEY SLAPS GAG ORDER ON ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTISTS – Embarrassing Chromium Study Prompts Management Review of Scientific Findings
- CHROMIUM FAR DEADLIER THAN EARLIER ASSESSMENTS INDICATE – Scores of Capped New Jersey Contaminated Sites Will Have to Be Re-Evaluated
- TEFLON COATS PUBLIC AGENCY ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE Jackson Sought to Have DEP Study Pulled from Publication
- NEW JERSEY FACING CHROMIUM EMERGENCY – 1 IN 10 CANCER RISKS – State Scientist Reveals DEP Cover-Up; Demand for Federal Intervention
The most recent chromium scandal is now playing out as a result of a national Report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
Based on EPA data, EWG that found that over 200 million Americans are exposed to unsafe levels of the carcinogen in drinking water, see the Newsweek story:
Bill Wolfe, with Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a group that protects government whistleblowers, says the EPA is “absolutely not” doing its job to protect the public from chromium, and that it’s a case that “illustrates undue influence—agency capture—by major corporate polluters.”
The EWG national Report prominently featured New Jersey, and in doing so exposed gross negligence by the Christie DEP.
The Christie DEP ignored DEP’s own scientists’ recommendations to set a chromium drinking water standard of 0.07 parts per billion, recommendations issued way back in September 2010.
The initial EWG Report noted:
In New Jersey, the press reported the water quality institute’s recommendation before it could be formally submitted to the Department of Environmental Protection for development of a regulation. This angered Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin, who was appointed by Gov. Chris Christie. He not only blocked submission of the recommendation, but effectively stopped the institute from meeting for four years,15 delaying drinking water regulations for more than a dozen chemicals.
The final version was softened, in response to DEP press office threats:
“In New Jersey, the press reported the water quality institute’s recommendation before it could be formally submitted to the Department of Environmental Protection for development of a regulation. According to former DEP planner Bill Wolfe, now an environmental advocate, this angered Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin, appointed by Gov. Chris Christie. Wolfe said Martin not only blocked submission of the recommendation, but effectively stopped the institute from meeting for four years, delaying drinking water regulations for more than a dozen chemicals.
The final Report notes NJ’s battle:
Battles in New Jersey, North Carolina
Scientists in California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment are not alone in determining that extraordinarily low levels of chromium-6 in drinking water can cause cancer.
In 2010, New Jersey’s Drinking Water Quality Institute, a state agency comprised of scientists, utility officials and citizen experts, calculated a health-based maximum contaminant level – what California calls a public health goal – of 0.06 parts per billion, just slightly higher than California’s. This year, scientists in North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality, also drawing on the 2008 National Toxicology Program study that drove the California goal, calculated a do-not-drink level matching the New Jersey number.
But neither New Jersey nor North Carolina has set a legal limit for chromium-6 in tap water. In both states, scientists’ health-based recommendations were at odds with the decisions of politically appointed regulators.
As I expected, that set the Christie hacks off and the DEP press office immediately sprung into attack mode to suppress that story in NJ media. To do that, they again smeared me personally.
This email was sent to EWG and reporters by DEP spokesman Bob Considine:
Unfortunately, you’re sourcing a disgruntled former DEP employee who was dismissed from here and is not telling the truth.
According to EWG, the Christie DEP press office essentially threatened them if they didn’t revise the Report – ironically on the same day of press reports of Gov. Christie’s spokesperson using the “lead pipe” threat.
EWG caved into that threat and revised the text of their Report, something I objected to and got this “apology” reply from EWG:
Bill,I’m sorry you are disappointed, as I have profound respect for you and the work you have done and am very much hoping we can continue a relationship.
The simple truth is that we did not have the time or space to explain your proofs in detail, although we completely believe them. DEP was threatening what amounted to a nuclear counterattack on our credibility and the most efficient way to deal with it was to tell them they could have a couple of sentences in response. If the report had been one dealing with New Jersey in detail, we would have dug deeper and presented the evidence showing you are right.
Despite the fact that I sent NJ Spotlight reporter Jon Hurdle the evidence to back up my claim, he too was intimidated by the Christie DEP smear and did not print the full story about the recent DEP rejection of scientific recommendation back in 2010.
So here it is, from the Drinking Water Quality Institute’s meeting minutes for September 10, 2010:
3. Subcommittee Summaries—Subcommittee Chairpersons Health Effects—L. McGeorge: She noted first that the Subcommittee had adjusted its workplan, delaying action on radium and tertiary butyl alcohol to the first quarter of 2011; they would consider adding nitrates to their workload at a future meeting. Second, after A. Stern’s presentation at the previous Health Effects Subcommittee (HE) meeting on the slope factor developed by the NJDEP Chromium Workgroup for oral exposure to hexavalent chromium, the HE had accepted this slope factor as the basis for a Health-based MCL recommendation for hexavalent chromium at its September meeting. L. McGeorge distributed copies of a memorandum to the Testing and Treatment Subcommittees, recommending a health-based maximum contaminant level (HBMCL) of 0.07 μg/L for hexavalent chromium based on this slope factor.
If readers have any doubts about this story, they can visit the video archives of NJN TV. Environmental reporter Ed Rogers broadcast a story on the evening news in which I was interviewed and supported the chromium recommendations of the health effects subcommittee.
Or readers could look into why the Chairwoman of the health effects subcommittee at the DWQI was removed after making that recommendation at that meeting.
She too got the Chrome Pipe Treatment.