Home > Uncategorized > Despite Pompton Lakes Tragedy, DEP Weakened and Now Christie Considering Nixing “Vapor Intrusion” Requirements

Despite Pompton Lakes Tragedy, DEP Weakened and Now Christie Considering Nixing “Vapor Intrusion” Requirements

hundreds of residents attend hearing on Pomton Lakes cancer cluster

Hundreds of residents attend hearing on Pompton Lakes cancer cluster

Over 450 homes in Pompton Lakes NJ were poisoned by toxic chemical vapors from groundwater pollution from the Dupont site (see this and this on cancer cluster). The problem is known as “vapor intrusion” (VI) and it is a huge statewide issue at hundreds of toxic sites and old landfills (for examples: see this on VI facts; and this for VI at Middlesex Boro Daycare; and this and this for VI at Atlantic Highlands Elementary School; and this for Frankling Township (Warren Co.) Elementary  School VI; and this VI at  homes on Kings Path in Hopewell; and (this HVN; 9/21/06) for these Hopewell Boro VI problems right in DEP Acting Commissioner Bob Martin’s backyard). Below is an explanation from PEER on how DEP recently abandoned August 2009 improvements to the DEP VI program due to industry opposition – and how the Christie administration is now considering elimination of VI requirements.

NEW JERSEY CLOSING ITS NOSE TO VAPOR INTRUSION CRISIS – Vapor Intrusion Rules Cast into Regulatory Limbo as Horror Stories Multiply

Trenton – Rules seeking to accelerate indoor air sampling and provide more rapid response to toxic vapors seeping into homes, day-care centers and other buildings were recently set aside by New Jersey authorities and the new administration of Governor Chris Christie has pledged to kill them altogether, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). This regulatory gap occurs as new evidence shows even more widespread contamination of groundwater and soil than previously thought and as the state moves to pick up the pace of “brownfields” redevelopment of contaminated sites.

Middlesex Boro Presybterian Pre[School was poisoned by vapors from nearby landfill

Middlesex Boro Presbyterian Pre-School was poisoned by vapors from nearby landfill

Toxic vapor intrusion occurs as contaminants in soil or groundwater emit vapors that enter structures, typically through basements, sickening residents. As widely reported, volatile organic chemical vapors from a century-old DuPont factory have endangered over 450 homes and thousands of residents in Pompton Lakes. Residents there were outraged to learn that the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and DuPont took years to notify them of the problem and test the air in their homes.

New Jersey is one of the nation’s most contaminated states yet it still has failed to restrict high-density construction atop hundreds of underground toxic plumes. Under governors of both parties, New Jersey has pushed for quick and cheap redevelopment by merely capping contaminated plumes under old industrial sites, a practice call “pave-and-wave.” As a result, the state has been buffeted by a steady stream of lurid eco-horror stories as the chemical fumes ultimately surface.

Franklin Township Elementary School - was poisoned by vapor intrusion from the Pohatcong Valley Suiperfun sites

Franklin Township Elementary School – was poisoned by vapor intrusion from the Pohatcong Valley Superfund site

The agency began to come to grips with the indoor exposure danger and in 2005 adopted a “Vapor Intrusion Guidance” document. That document was based on a “phased approach” a laborious but voluntary 10-stage process in which extensive groundwater and soil sampling was required before indoor air was sampled. Huge loopholes in that guidance were exposed by the Kiddie Kollege tragedy in 2006 where 60 toddlers were poisoned by mercury vapors in a day-care center located in a contaminated former thermometer factory. It took DEP over 14 weeks to notify parents of the exposure.

Kiddie Kollege led to changes in law and DEP vapor intrusion policy. In August 2009, DEP adopted “Vapor Intrusion Guidance” revisions to speed up indoor air sampling where sensitive receptors were involved (day-care centers, schools, homes). Even this halting step has been reversed, however:

  • On November 17, 2009, DEP withdrew its August guidance on vapor intrusion, returning to the flawed phased approach which leads to the extensive delays seen in Pompton Lakes; and
  • The Christie administration Transition Report on DEP went even further, stating that vapor intrusion rules are not legally required under the Site Remediation and Reform Act and DEP should limit its rules only to cover “required elements.” If implemented, this stance would essentially repeal official Vapor Intrusion Guidance.

“New Jersey appears to be burying its head in contaminated sand,” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, a former DEP analyst. “There are hundreds of contaminated groundwater cases that may be poisoning indoor air in Garden State homes, schools and day-care centers. To avoid years of delay in sampling groundwater and soil, DEP must mandate more rapid indoor air sampling and abandon the Christie Transition recommendations.”


See the November 2009 suspension of revisions to vapor intrusion guidance

View the Christie DEP Transition Plan (page 16 for vapor intrusion text)

Look at toxic vapor intrusions threats in New Jersey schools

Revisit the Kiddie Kollege day-care operation in an old mercury-laden thermometer factory

New Jersey PEER is a state chapter of a national alliance of state and federal agency resource professionals working to ensure environmental ethics and government accountability

14 homes on Kings Path in Hopewell NJ unknowingly were built on toxic contamaintion plume

14 homes on Kings Path in Hopewell NJ unknowingly were built on toxic contamination plume from Rockwell International site with extremely high levels of volatile organic chemicals TCE and PCE

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  1. February 4th, 2010 at 14:15 | #1


    Thank you do much for keeping us up-to-date. This news is very disturbing. What can we do?

  2. February 4th, 2010 at 14:27 | #2

    Hi Lisa – I provided this to you for 3 reasons: 1) to explain some of the delay Pompton Lakes homeowners experienced. Dupont and DEP knew of the problem for years, but DEP claims that they did NOT know of vapor problem inside homes until May 2008. But DEP would have known MUCH sooner if they sampled indoor air in homes BEFORE spending years and hundreds of thousands of dollars on groundwater, soil, and soil gas sampling. That lengthy procedure is required by the Vapor Intrusion Guidance document. It is known as the “phased approach” The phased approach is literally killing us. DEP proposed in July 2009 to expedite things and require indoor air sampling sooner when “sensitive receptors” were involved. The July changes were good, but they were rescinded in November due to industry opposition. CCPL has the unfortunate experience to understand this issue and can advocate for restoration of the July 2009 revisions. 2) The other reason I sent you this was to get word out on the Christie Transition Report, which basically recommends that teh entire VI Guidance document be withdrawn. This would kill the program that discovered the PL problem. The result would be that hundreds of more homes around scores of sites would be unknowingly poisoned. CCPL can weigh in with DEP and the Gov and urge that not happen. 3) These kind of DEP games and concessions to polluters are another good reason for sole EPA control oversight.

  3. February 4th, 2010 at 16:54 | #3


    As you always do, thank you so very much for sharing this important information. This is horrible news and to someone like me and others living with this poisonous gas toxic cocktail, it is not acceptable. Who runs our state, the “people” as it should be or is it the corporations? There is a real urgency that the EPA take total control of oversight in Pompton Lakes and it needs to happen sooner than later.

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