DEP Takes Polluters “At their Word” – EPA Audit Rips State Programs
Public Employees for EnvironmentalÂ Responsibility (PEER) broke theÂ storyÂ that a recent EPAÂ auditÂ of NJ DEP environmental programs ripped DEP’s continuing poorÂ performance and lack of effective oversight of polluters. We thank our friends in DEP for outing this bad news, that both EPAÂ andÂ DEP would have swept underÂ theÂ rug – you never Â see this stuff in the avalanche of EPAÂ andÂ DEP press releases.
Perhaps the most shockingly unacceptable finding is that DEP takes polluters “atÂ theirÂ word“, without conducting field inspections, sampling, orÂ auditsÂ to verifyÂ theirÂ work:
Finding 8:Â None of the Site Remediation Program’s bureaus interviewed do any project assessment and/or process improvement beyond data validation, (i.e. no field audits, no split samples, no internal assessments, etc). The EPA assessment team was told that Responsible Party contractors and/or NJDEP contractors are “certified professionals and taken at their word.” (link to report here)
Here’s some of the press coverage:
Friday, August 28, 2009
By MICHAEL SYMONS
Gannett State Bureau
An audit by the federal Environmental Protection Agency found the state Department of Environmental Protection still hasn’t made fixes promised since 2006 and detailed extensive shortfalls in New Jersey’s toxic-site cleanup [Note:Â andÂ wetlandsÂ andÂ other]Â program.
In a sense, the report means the EPA — headed by former DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson — is criticizing the management of the DEP during the years Jackson was in charge. …
Bill Wolfe, a former DEP analyst who is now director of the New Jersey chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said the DEP is failing to meet minimum federal quality and performance standards.
“This audit is an indictment of DEP management for failing fundamental tests of competence,” Wolfe said. “Without basic procedures for assuring the accuracy and quality of performance data a public agency cannot even be sure that its shoes are tied.”
EPA Criticizes NJ’s Monitoring of Contaminated Sites (listen to mp3 here)
NEW YORK, NY August 28, 2009 â€”The US Environmental Protection Agency is citing problems with how New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection monitors thousands of contaminated sites. WNYC’s Bob Hennelly has more.Report: ‘Significant shortcomings’ in state environmental agencyThursday, August 27, 2009ÂThe RecordSTAFF WRITER
A federal audit of New Jerseyâ€™s Department of Environmental Protection identified what it called â€œsignificant shortcomingsâ€ in how the DEP operates, especially in the division that handles contaminated site cleanups.
The DEPâ€™s site remediation program doesnâ€™t provide proper oversight of contaminated site cleanups because program officers donâ€™t follow up with field audits or internal assessments, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency report, released Thursday.
The EPA faulted the DEP officials for failing to verify what the private contractors of polluters told them about site cleanups. The DEP officials even told the EPA during interviews that the contractors were â€œcertified professionals and taken at their word,â€ the report said. (link) Â
Â This latest EPA audit follows a scathing 2008 EPA Inspecor General’s Report that prompted EPA to take over a number of toxics site cleanups due to years of failure by DEP -Â see EPA IG Report here.