Home > Uncategorized > Dupont & DEP Hammered Again in Pompton Lakes – EPA Takes Charge

Dupont & DEP Hammered Again in Pompton Lakes – EPA Takes Charge

Empty Chairs and bottled water - residents were abandoned by government and their water was poisoned

Empty Chairs and bottled water – residents were abandoned by government and their water was poisoned

[Update 1/28/10]: a minor victory for CCPL – see point #1 below. Bergen Record: Officials say Pompton Lakes residents can use own contractors

Another packed hearing of hundreds of residents was held last night in Pompton Lakes NJ (see this for December hearing coverage on cancer cluster findings).  For today’s Bergen Record coverage: Pompton Lakes cancer study widens

former Pompton Lakes Mayor (former Councilman Ed Meakem behind him). Local officials that challenged Dupont were driven from office.

former Pompton Lakes Mayor (former Councilman Ed Meakem behind him). Local officials that challenged Dupont were driven from office.

In remarkable “60 Minutes” level testimony, the former Mayor spoke about the history of how he disclosed the Dupont contamination in the late 1980′s.

He challenged State DEP officials who said they were legally powerless to require that Dupont sample homes. He noted that he was able to set up local programs that required Dupont to compensate homeowners for lost property values, subsidize their mortgages, and take other steps to protect residents.

But, as he demanded more from Dupont, he said he came under intense pressure and intimidation. He received death threats and devices were exploded on his front lawn [1/29 deleted. See comments]. Since then, for almost 20 years local officials have looked the other way as the cleanup stalled. Some even helped Dupont keep the contamination quiet, in naive hopes or possibly corrupt plans that a promised Dupont major development and resort golf course will lower their property taxes.

But now residents themselves are fighting back. They are demanding that US EPA take over the cleanup, due to imminent and substantial health risks and over 20 years of delay in cleanup, which has led to a deep lack of trust in both NJ DEP and Dupont.

A federal court found that similar risks and delays at a Honeywell chromium site in Jersey City violated federal law. The Honeywell Jersey City chromium case set national precedent on RCRA citizen lawsuits on “imminent risk to human health and environment” – see an excerpt of that case below from my June 1, 2006 testimony to NJ legislature: (view full testimony here)

“Echoing these conclusions, in a case involving an “imminent risk to human health and environment”, a federal Circuit Court judge expressed no confidence in the DEP’s oversight of a highly contaminated chromium site in Jersey City, concluding

[T]he court finds that the evidence demonstrates a substantial breakdown in the agency process that has resulted in twenty years of permanent clean-up inaction. [ICO v. Honeywell. US Third Circuit Court. 2004]

In August 2009, an EPA audit found major problems in NJ DEP oversight and lack of enforcement of toxic site cleanups (see: EPA AUDIT RIPS NEW JERSEY DEP PERFORMANCE - Corrective Actions Never Implemented for Toxic, Wetlands and Other Programs .

Before that, a June 2008 EPA Inspector General’s Audit of NJ DEP cleanup program found complete breakdown. Amazingly, EPA was told that NJ DEP takes Dupont consultants “at their word without independent field verification of facts (see: EPA REPORT BLASTS NEW JERSEY TOXIC CLEAN-UPS - State Failures to Enforce Law Lead to Worst Delays in the Country

As a result, EPA has taken over control of cleanups at several NJ sites due to multiple massive failures by NJ DEP. Residents are demanding that EPA take similar control over the Dupont site (see: New Obama EPA Regional Administrator Plants a Flag in NJ).

Last year’s disclosure that chemical vapors from contaminated groundwater were seeping into hundreds of homes triggered outrage – the proverbial straw that broke the camels back.

IMG_6633Residents, led by then Council members Ed Meakem and Lisa Riggolio started asking questions about Dupont’s control, lax DEP oversight, and cleanup delays, which then led to the formation of a watchdog group called Citizens for a Clean Pompton Lakes,  CCPL.

This group forced the state to conduct a health study. That study found elevated levels of cancer associated with chemicals from Dupont’s site. (see this story for how CCPL started)

Last night’s meeting was EPA’s first step towards their promise to do more at the site in response to citizen’s demands. EPA has agreed to assume “co-lead” status for certain limited aspects of the cleanup, but not to list the site under the federal Superfund program. EPA prefers the RCRA “Corrective Action” program as the mechanism for federal oversight. EPA also pledged to begin a formal community involvement initiative.

But EPA assured residents that final decisions on EPA’s role have not been made.

EPA’s current limited commitment needs to be expanded significantly.

Residents must keep the pressure on EPA. In addition to establishing a 24/7 presence in the community and deploying mobile sampling equipment, the key indicators of whether EPA is serious in fulfilling their promise to the people of Pompton Lakes are:

1) EPA must legally take complete control over the technical aspects of the site, including direct hiring of contractors and consultants to collect data, finish the remedial investigation, conduct the cleanup, and install vapor mitigation systems that homeowners agree to (with no liability waiver). EPA scientific and technical control must be the same as that at so called EPA lead Superfund “orphan sites” – Dupont and DEP have grossly abused their power and have absolutely no trust in the community. Dupont can have no role in future cleanup activities, other than to write checks;

2) EPA must send a bill Dupont for all the work and credibly threaten (in an enforceable order) to file a lawsuit to recover triple damages if they refuse; and

3) EPA must issue a formal enforcement document  (under RCRA or Superfund) that:

a) sets a mandatory and enforceable schedule for project activities,

b) forces Dupont to pay for them,

c) imposes large enforcement fines; and

d) seeks huge natural resource damages and property and health damages that reimburse the people of PL who suffered injuries to health and property values.

4) commit to work with ATSDR to assure that a scientifically valid epidemiological study is conducted in the entire town, and to secure funding for residents’ health monitoring and appropriate medical testing.

Here are some resources to help assure that EPA does that:

Administrative RCRA Authorities 

The types of administrative orders that can be issued under authorities provided by RCRA are as follows:

  • RCRA Section 3008(a) Orders (“Compliance Orders”) — Used to require any person that is not in compliance with the requirements of RCRA to take steps immediately or within a stated time period to return to compliance. The order can contain penalty provisions up to $32,500 per day per violation and can suspend or revoke a facility’s permit or interim status. When EPA issues a compliance order, the person issued the order can request an administrative hearing on the factual provisions of the order.
  • RCRA Section 7003 Orders – Used when there is evidence that the past or present handling, storage, treatment, transportation or disposal of hazardous or nonhazardous waste may present an “imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment”. Section 7003 Orders, issued to any past or present entity (i.e., generators, transporters, or owners or operators) who is contributing (or has contributed) to the problem can order that steps be taken to clean up the facility or location or to change or stop the operating procedure causing endangerment.
  • RCRA Section 3013 Orders — Used to evaluate the nature and extent of a problem or potential problem through monitoring, testing, and analysis when it is found that the presence of any hazardous waste at a facility or site where hazardous waste is or has been treated, stored, or disposed or where such waste from any facility or site may present a substantial hazard to human health or the environment.

Citizen Suits

Under RCRA Section 7002, citizens are authorized to bring enforcement actions against potential or actual RCRA violators and against EPA in the federal District Court system. Citizens are generally required to provide notice to EPA, to the state in which the violation occurred, and to the alleged violator. (See Regulations at 40 C.F.R. 254 )

§ 264.4 Imminent hazard action.Notwithstanding any other provisions of these regulations, enforcement actions may be brought pursuant to section 7003 of RCRA.

[45 FR 33221, May 19, 1980, as amended at 71 FR 40272, July 14, 2006]

EPA RCRA website (link)

current Mayor of Pompton Lakes has been criticized  for inaction and a too cozy relationship with Dupont and DEP

current Mayor of Pompton Lakes has been criticized for inaction and a too cozy relationship with Dupont and DEP

We note the continuing support of Senators Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez, who again sent representatives last night.

In closing, we note that several residents spoke that they were appalled by the behavior of the mayor and DEP Assistant Commissioner Kropp.

Residents accused Kropp of being disrespectful, arrogant, and condescending. Maybe the meds weren’t working, but I agree that Kropp’s continuous smug grin and haughty tone of voice were completely unprofessional and inappropriate. Several times, she flat out blamed residents for delays in installation of vapor intrusion systems in homes.

She also refused to meet with certain groups or individuals, implying that they were effectively outside agitators and did not represent “the community”. I found these remarks divisive and outrageous.

I also must note that both Kropp and the Mayor confirmed that they had met privately prior to the meeting. I assume this was an attempt to get their stories straight. Again, this covert type of one sided communication destroys all trust. This is just another reason that DEP must cease to be involved in the cleanup.

Note the Legend - "Former" everything. What's Next: Former Town?

Note the Legend – “Former” everything. What’s Next: Former Town?

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  1. January 26th, 2010 at 21:54 | #1

    Bill:

    A heartfelt thanks once again for your continued support. When the going gets tough and the hours of work are more than I can sleep, I think about your determination and support you have given us and continue to give us and this keeps me moving forward. You make be believe there are still “good, honest and truthful” people in the world. It is so funny, my Dad always told me “work hard, be honest and truthful” and good things will come to you”. In most of my working life this has been true. Then something change about a decade ago. The world, for the most part, became a very self-absorbed place. You and some others out there provide me hope, hope that people still care about others. As your read your amazing article it reminds me again to ask myself these questions that haunt me daily. The questions I continue to ask myself are filled with “What if”. What if Mayor Sinsimer was able to continue as our Mayor and stayed if office? What if the proactive train Mayor Sinsimer was on continued? What if our former (after Mayor Sinsimer’s term) and current Pompton Lakes elected officials were more proactive when Ed Meakem and I continued to ask and sometimes beg them to work for the people and reminded them that DuPont was not their friend? So many, “what ifs”. There is no “what if” with you Mr. Wolfe, your support, presence and the time you take out of your busy schedule to help the residents of Pompton Lakes is appreciated by many. If you schedule allows, this Thursday, January 28th at 7:30 pm, The Citizens For A Clean Pompton Lakes (CCPL) is holding their Open Public Meeting at the Elks Lodge in Pompton Lakes, NJ, 15 Perrin Avenue, Pompton Lakes, NJ. I hope to see you there.

    Thank you once again for all that you do!

    Best wishes,

    Lisa Riggiola
    Co-founder/Board Member
    The Citizens For A Clean Pompton Lakes (CCPL)
    http://www.theccpl.org
    theccpl@yahoo.com
    1-877-817-9098

  2. January 26th, 2010 at 23:46 | #2

    Lisa – thanks again for the kind words. Funny, I deleted the paragraph I had written right up front that I love the people of Pompton Lakes. They know exactly what is right and know when government and corporations are screwing them and don’t hesitate to say so and organize to hold these bastards accountable! The guidance you got from your dad sounds a lot like my Mom. Always glad to help CCPL.

    Bill

  3. January 26th, 2010 at 23:49 | #3

    Thank you Bill, truly from the bottom of your hearts.

    Lisa

  4. John J. Sinsimer
    January 29th, 2010 at 12:05 | #4

    Bill:

    I wanted to clarify one thing in your article above. My wife didn’t have a nervous breakdown. I said that when I arrived home and found her lying on the floor unable to get up, I thought she had a nervous breakdown. After a month and a half and several mis-diagnoses, an eye, ear and nose specialist diagnosed her problem as a severe inner ear imbalance brought on by tremendous stress. He prescribed medication to treat the problem and within a few weeks she was able to get out of bed. By the way thanks for covering the plight of the people of Pompton Lakes.

    Jack Sinsimer

  5. Bill Wolfe
    January 29th, 2010 at 12:26 | #5

    Jack – thanks – but I did report accurately what you said at the meeting, yes?

    I will delete that from the post.

    Sorry for any confusion I created.

    Wolfe

  1. January 27th, 2010 at 01:51 | #1
  2. February 4th, 2010 at 11:31 | #2
  3. February 12th, 2010 at 21:46 | #3
  4. February 17th, 2010 at 22:28 | #4
  5. February 20th, 2010 at 16:19 | #5
  6. March 4th, 2010 at 20:59 | #6
  7. March 27th, 2010 at 11:22 | #7
  8. June 6th, 2010 at 09:49 | #8
  9. September 5th, 2010 at 10:09 | #9
  10. November 13th, 2010 at 21:31 | #10
  11. December 22nd, 2010 at 10:33 | #11
  12. January 5th, 2011 at 13:22 | #12
  13. March 24th, 2011 at 13:40 | #13
  14. May 10th, 2011 at 12:17 | #14
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