Archive for August, 2008

Drink at your own risk

August 27th, 2008 3 comments

DEP Report: Residents of over 50,000 NJ homes drinking polluted water

According to a DEP report required by the Private Well Testing Act, residents of over 50,000 NJ homes are unknowingly drinking unsafe well water, yet DEP and local health officials are ignoring the problem.

DEP estimates that there are over 400,000 private residential drinking water wells in NJ. Over 51,000 of these wells have been sampled, but 350,000 have not.

DEP data from 2002 – 2007 indicate that 12.5 % of over 51,000 residential wells that were sampled fail to meet drinking water standards and are polluted. This rate does not include more than 18% of sampled wells poisoned by toxic lead. Assuming that this large data set and 12.5% failure rate are representative of all 400,000 wells, means that more than 50,000 NJ households are drinking unsafe water.

According to a Report just released by DEP:

“A total of 55,749 well water samples were analyzed from 51,028 separate wells during the period of September 2002 to April 2007. The samples results are biased using the highest test result value when more than one sample was collected at the same property. The 51,028 wells sampled represents about 13% of the estimated 400,000 private wells used for drinking water in New Jersey. (click on link for full Report:

Here’s how the well contamination – by pollutant and county – is distributed across the State:


Primary Contaminants: Protecting Human Health

Primary Drinking Water Standards are established for contaminants that have either an immediate or long-term effect on human health. Based on the results of the 51,028 wells tested between September 2002 and April 2007, 88 percent (%) of the wells “passed” (did not exceed) all of the required primary standards for drinking water. Of the 12 % (6,369) wells that exceeded a primary drinking water standards (“failed”), the most common exceedances were for gross alpha particle activity2 (2,209 wells), arsenic (1,445 wells), nitrates (1,399 wells), fecal coliform or E. coli (1,136 wells), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) (702 wells), and mercury4 (215 wells). A summary of the primary contaminant test results is presented in Figure E1.

There are significant flaws in the DEP private well testing program that cry out for legislative and regulatory reforms. Yet while the DEP Report discloses these problems, DEP does not recommend how to fix them.

1) There is no requirement to fix pollution problems discovered:

“The Act and subsequent regulations do not require water treatment if any test parameter standard level is exceeded. However, the NJDEP does provide information regarding various treatment alternatives and potential funding sources (see The Act is considered a “notice” of potable water quality for interested parties involved in the real estate transaction.”

2) Neighbors of polluted wells are not required to be warned

“Once the local health authority is notified electronically by NJDEP or directly by the laboratory, the health authorities may (but are not required to) notify property owners within the vicinity of the failing well. However, because these individual tests are considered confidential, the exact location of the well test failure cannot be identified.”

3) Purely Voluntary: DEP can not enforce the Private Well Testing Act

“Since no state agency has the ability to verify that all real estate transactions (sales and leases) subject to testing under the PWTA have been reported to NJDEP, the absence of results, along with errors or mistakes in the reported data, could have a significant impact on the evaluation and interpretation of the data presented.”

4) The data are unreliable

The following identifies some key issues concerning PWTA data:

A) Sample Collection and Transport – Samples collected or transported improperly often yield contaminated or questionable test results. For example, the NJDEP currently suspects that collection of lead samples from unflushed water tanks or spigots may be the primary reason why many elevated lead results are being reported.

B) Analysis and Data Reporting – The PWTA Program testing data are submitted electronically and are automatically entered into the database without any quality control or quality assurance reviews. It is assumed that the certified laboratory properly met all required protocols and the data are accurate. The PWTA Program relies on the reporting laboratory to catch and correct any data entry errors.

C) Collection of well location information – Without accurate well location information, the analytical results cannot be properly correlated to the well, thereby-hindering evaluations of the data. The new database that went on-line in the Spring of 2007 included additional quality control checks to improve location data.

5) The failure rate does NOT include MAJOR TOXIC LEAD PROBLEMS

“NJDEP considers the lead results to be questionable, and did not include them in the summary charts. The raw lead test results indicate that 5,523 wells (11%) out of the 51,028 tested had lead levels above the old ground water standard of 10 μg/l, and 9,368 (18%) wells had lead levels above the new ground water standard of 5 μg/l. Furthermore, some of the samples contained unrealistically high concentrations of lead with the highest being 20,200 μg/l. “

6) The “case study” reported in Byram Township (Sussex) is a disaster

Private Well Testing Act Case Study #2 – Byram Township, Sussex County

In the summer of 2004, a well at a house being sold in Byram Township, Sussex County was found to be contaminated with trichloroethylene above the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 1 microgram per liter (or part per billion (ppb)). The concentration detected was 29 μg/l. The public notification provisions within the PWTA regulations suggest that the local health authority notify neighboring properties within at least 200 feet whenever a drinking water standard (e.g., MCL) is exceeded. Because of the location of the affected property, no homes were located within 200 ft of the affected property, so neither the local health authority nor the State performed any subsequent sampling.

Making the environment a priority – where is the leadership?

August 26th, 2008 3 comments

More signs of erosion of environmental protection
As the summer winds down and we head into the Labor Day weekend, the recent closure of Delaware Bay shellfisheries, proliferation of jellyfish, and wash-up of medical waste that closed Cape May beaches highlight the critical importance of protecting our environment (see: Avalon’s beaches shut again over waste
State hunts dumpers of medical waste off Avalon
Few seem to recall that in the wake of a series of revolting medical waste washups along the shore, in the spring of 1989 Governor Tom Kean signed the Medical Waste Management Act. That law put in place a comprehensive program at DEP to oversee proper disposal of medical waste. (see:
Since then, DEP budgets have been slashed, and as a direct result, monitoring and enforcement have been eroded.
Bad things – like medical waste on the beach – tend to happen when DEP budgets are cut and monitoring and enforcement are scaled back. This is no different than when the State Trooper and his radar gun are not there: people tend to speed.
Back in the 1990’s former Governor Whitman was slashing DEP budgets and rolling back regulations and enforcement. Whitman cuts to the Shellfish Sanitation Program – which assures the safety of our seafood – caused the federal government to threaten to ban NJ’s ability to ship shellfish in interstate markets. Prompted by mobilized public concern – a group of NJ Senate Republicans stood up and literally drew a line in the sand (see extraordinary letter below).
To put a halt to this shortsighted attack on the environment, seven republican Senators representing shore districts very publicly and clearly said:
Among all the responsibilities of government, there are few of greater importance, or of more concern to the public than the protection of New Jersey’s environment and the quality of public health….
We are greatly concerned that your proposed budget for fiscal year 1997 does not adequately provide the necessary resources to State government to meet the environmental challenges facing the State.”

Those Senators acted on that demand by restoring $19 million to DEP that had been slashed by Whitman. But Whitman impounded these funds and refused to spend them as appropriated by the Legislature for restoring DEP budget cuts. In response, these same Senators bypassed the Governor and led the charge to amend the Constitution to dedicate 4% of corporate business taxes to environmental programs ($90-$100 million per year).
Fast forward to our current situation.
Current Governor Corzine has cut DEP budgets 3 years in a row and driven many career professionals into early retirement. A maximum of 10% of lost staff positions can be refilled and through retirement DEP and the public lose irreplaceable experienced professionals that are DEP’s institutional memory. At the same time, critical new challenges – like global warming and chemical plant safety – demand additional resources.
Where is the mobilized public outrage at the erosion of the agency that protects public health and the environment? Where is the leadership?
Trenton, NJ, May 16, 1996.
State of New Jersey
State House CN-001
Trenton, NJ 08625-0001
Among all the responsibilities of government, there are few of greater importance, or of more concern to the public than the protection of New Jersey’s environment and the quality of public health. We know that protecting these important concerns, and carrying out these responsibilities through appropriate State actions and support is a priority you share with the Legislature and the general public. It is in recognition of that shared commitment to protecting New Jersey’s environment and public health that we write to you today.
We are greatly concerned that your proposed budget for fiscal year 1997 does not adequately provide the necessary resources to State government to meet the environmental challenges facing the State. This is especially true in the proposed funding for the Department of Environmental Protection.
The proposed budget would require dramatic reductions in scientific, technical and human resources critical to the mission of the Department. In a State facing the environmental issues New Jersey does, we need to respond aggressively to the challenges of insuring that our air is safe to breath, the water safe to drink or the empty lot next door safe to play in. It is highly questionable as to whether the Department will maintain the requisite expertise and resources under the fiscal year 1997 budget proposal to answer these questions and respond in a way protective of public health and the environment.
We are also concerned that the proposed reduction in resources will not fulfill the new approaches to environmental protection. The successful implementation of the initiatives under discussion will require additional resources above and beyond those currently available to the DEP. Many of the ”reengineering” initiatives being undertaken by the Department will be fundamentally handicapped by the proposed reductions in resources contained in the current budget proposal.
Due to these concerns we feel that it is important that you be aware we may not be able to support this budget proposal, should it come before the Senate in its current form The historical erosion of staffing at the Department experienced over past important that you be aware we may not be able to support this budget proposal, should it come before the Senate in its current form The historical erosion of staffing at the Department experienced over past budget cycles cannot be continued because the environmental goals we have outlined above will not be attainable.
We feel strongly that the proposed layoffs of DEP personnel will negatively impact the Department’s ability to effectively safeguard the environment and protect public health. Therefore, we cannot support a final DEP budget which contains employee
We are, of course, committed to working with you to restore the resources we feel are necessary to carry out the critical functions of the Department of Environmental Protection We feel that it is very possible to identity appropriate resources, sources of funding and approaches to achieve this, and we ask for the opportunity to explore these with you and your staff.
Respectfully yours,
Senate Majority Leader.
President Pro Tempore.
Link to full transcript of US Senate Confirmation Hearing of Christine Todd Whitman as US EPA Administrator: (this letter @ page 123-124)

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DEP cracks down on air polluters – Dirty coal, industry, and power plants

August 24th, 2008 No comments

Federally mandated new rules would require emissions reductions to meet Clean Air Act Standards
DEP proposal would require polluters to install modern pollution control technology: See:

Vineland municipal power plant

The entire state of New Jersey fails to meet federal Clean Air Act health based standards for ground level ozone and other pollutants. The pollutants create unhealthy air commonly referred to as smog, especially during hot sunny summer days.

According to DEP:
“Ozone exposure can cause irritation of the lungs. This can make the lungs more vulnerable to diseases such as pneumonia and bronchitis, increase incidents of asthma and susceptibility to respiratory infections, reduce lung function, reduce an individual’s ability to exercise and aggravate chronic lung diseases. Increased ozone concentrations severely affect the quality of life for susceptible populations – small children, the elderly, and asthmatics – and present health risks for everyone. Exposure to ozone for several hours at relatively low concentrations significantly reduces lung function and induces respiratory inflammation in normal, healthy people during exercise. This decrease in lung function is generally accompanied by symptoms such as chest pain, coughing, sneezing, and pulmonary congestion (MARAMA 2005 Report).

PSEG Hamilton cola power plan now installing some pollution controls

Recent research in Southern California strongly suggests that, in addition to exacerbating existing asthma, ozone also causes asthma in children (MARAMA 2005 Report). Long term exposure may lead to scarring of lung tissue and lowered lung efficiency. Repeated exposure may cause permanent lung damage. When ozone reaches unhealthy levels, children, people who are active outdoors, and people with respiratory disease are most at risk. The Department estimates that attaining the Federal 1997 8-hour NAAQS for ozone in New Jersey would eliminate about 40,000 asthma attacks each year and substantially reduce hospital admissions and emergency room visits among children and adults with asthma and other respiratory diseases (NJDEP 2006 ozone report).
Acording to DEP. the proposed new rules will impact major industrial pollution sources, including:

* asphalt pavement production plants;
* boilers serving electric generating units;
* glass manufacturing furnaces;
* municipal solid waste (MSW) incinerators;
* VOC stationary storage tanks.

Camden garbage incinerator

The proposed amendments would ensure that all ten (10) operating coal-fired boilers in New Jersey have modern air pollution control for NOx, particles, and SO2 by 2013. The Department estimates that implementing these measures will, by 2013, reduce NOx emissions by 2.16 tpd during the ozone season and 788 tons per year, and reduce SO2 emissions by 7.04 tpd during the ozone season and 2,571 tons per year.

Beasley’s point coal power plant

Coal-fired boilers are the highest emitting sources of particles, sulfur dioxide (SO2) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) in New Jersey.
These ten coal power plant boilers and their locations are:
B.L. England Generating Station unit 1 – Upper Township, Cape May County,
B.L. England Generating Station unit 2 – Upper Township, Cape May County,
Carney’s Point Generating Station unit 1 – Carney’s Point, Salem County,
Carney’s Point Generating Station unit 2 – Carney’s Point, Salem County,
Deepwater Generating Station unit 6/8 – Pennsville, Salem County,
Hudson Generating Station unit 2 – Jersey City, Hudson County,
Logan Generating Plant – Logan Township, Gloucester County,
Mercer Generating Station unit 1 – Hamilton Township, Mercer County,
Mercer Generating Station unit 2 – Hamilton Township, Mercer County, and
Vineland Municipal Electric Utility unit 10 – City of Vineland, Cumberland County
Glass Manufacturing Furnaces

Anchor Glass container plant

The Department is proposing to lower NOx emissions from glass manufacturing furnaces. There are seven plants in New Jersey, with a total of 25 furnaces that produce container glass, pressed glass, blown glass, and fiberglass. The proposed rules would require nine furnaces to implement additional emission control measures to comply with the proposed emission limit.
High Electric Demand Day (HEDD) Units

PSEG Bergen plant

The proposed new rule will address the NOx emissions from High Electric Demand Day (HEDD) units, also called HEDD electric generating units. HEDD units are electric generating units that are capable of generating 15 MW or more and are operated less than or equal to an average of 50 percent of the time during the previous three ozone seasons. The Department proposes to tighten the emission standards for HEDD units because these units emit significant quantities of NOx on high electric demand days, which are typically high temperature and high ozone days during the summer. The current New Jersey HEDD units, based on data from 2004 through 2006, consist of eight boilers and approximately 160 stationary combustion turbines.

tanks emit volatile organic chemicals

A public hearing concerning this proposal and a proposed State Implementation Plan
(SIP) revision, represented by this proposal, will be held on Friday, September 26, 2008 at 10A.M.:
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Hearing Room, 1st Floor
401 East State Street
Trenton, New Jersey 08625
Directions to the hearing room may be found at the Department’s website address at

Submit written comments by close of business on October 3, 2008, to:
Alice A. Previte, Esq.
Attention: DEP Docket No. 10-08-07/643
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Office of Legal Affairs
401 East State Street, Fourth Floor
PO Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

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Baldpate Mountain “Improvements” – Update

August 23rd, 2008 5 comments

Is additional car dependent public access worth the destruction?

Back in January, while hiking on Baldpate Mountain (Hopewell Township, Mercer County) I was shocked to come across a new access road and parking lot blasted through forest – an experience that prompted me to write this post (with pictures):
Pave paradise: Put up a parking lot
Today I returned to the scene of the crime for some followup photos – scroll through and see the good, the bad and the ugly along my hike:

entrance is transformed, and not for the better
parking lot – too big and over-engineered
is additional car dependent access worth the destruction?
How long before they widen and pave this carriage trail?
Ugly new fences enclose and restrict access to meadow.
New turn-around circle to accommodate cars. More pavement and more meadow destroyed.
Thank goodness they can’t engineer the view.
bicyclists enjoy the day – there are miles of are awesome trails
miles of old carriage trails – lets hope these are never “improved” by the engineers
outbuildings – will they be restored or “managed” to reduce risks?
My kind of “rest stop” – set your butt on the rock and enjoy the views.
another new parking lot
over-engineered 22 foot+ wide access road to new parking lot
another new access road – more signs, more cars, more pavement.
Existing rural road just at new access road – less than 18 feet wide.
New access road, signs, and road width (>22 feet) over-engineered, ugly and out of character with rural context.
This is character and deign of rural roads just outside Baldpate.
adjacent rural character
This lovely historic home is directly across the road from the lower new parking lot. The “improvements” ignored this historic character

This is what Peak Oil looks like

August 23rd, 2008 33 comments

Demand growing. Supply shrinking – Get used to higher prices
Although I think they got the story wrong (i.e. by attributing the problem more to underinvestment in exploration and political restrictions on access to supplies, than to a decline in recoverable supply, or peak oil), according to the NY Times business page:
“In 1994, the top five oil companies spent 3 percent of their free cash on share buybacks and 15 percent on exploration. By 2007, they were spending 34 percent of their free cash on buybacks — in effect, propping up their share prices — and a mere 6 percent on exploration, according to figures compiled by a team led by Ms. Jaffe and Ronald Soligo of Rice University. As a result, some experts warn that supplies will fall short of the demand over the next decade, perhaps sending prices well above today’s levels.
At a recent conference in Madrid, Christophe de Margerie, the chief executive of the French company Total, said the world would be hard-pressed to raise supplies beyond 95 million barrels a day by 2020. Only a few years ago, forecasters expected 120 million barrels a day by 2030, a level many analysts now view as unrealistic.”

As Oil Giants Lose Influence, Supply Drops

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