Home > Uncategorized > Christie Rule Freeze Kills Drinking Water Standard for Chemical Found in Rocket Fuel & Military Explosives

Christie Rule Freeze Kills Drinking Water Standard for Chemical Found in Rocket Fuel & Military Explosives

[Update: See March 12, NJN TV broadcast – and as we predicted, the proposal did expire]

The First Casualty of the Christie Moratorium is Your Drinking Water

Perchlorate found in 1 in 6 DEP sampled NJ water systems and 1 in 3 residential wells – thousands of NJ residents exposed to chemical linked to thyroid damage that can slow brain development in children.

The saga over attempts to protect NJ’s drinking water from the chemical perchlorate continue – see “Rocket Fuel in Your Water?” and “Playing Politics with Your Drinking Water” and “Chemicals Found in Infant Formula

When we last left this story in January 2009, former NJ DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson was being criticized during her US Senate confirmation for EPA Administrator for failing to adopt protective standards during her 3+ year tenure, despite the warnings of DEP’s own scientists, NJ Drinking Water Quality Institute’s 2005 Report recommendations, federal Center for Disease Control studies, and public health experts across the country. The 2005 DWQI Report recommended a 5 ug/L (ppb) standard in part because:

Pregnant women and infants are considered to be sensitive subpopulations for perchlorate’s effects, as hypothyroidism can have serious consequences on neurodevelopment.

When reporters asked why Jackson had failed to act for almost 4 years, here’s the answer some gave:

[DEP Commissioner Lisa] Jackson’s supporters blame Corzine, not Jackson, for New Jersey’s failure to regulate perchlorate.

“I am very disappointed that the state hasn’t moved faster on developing a perchlorate standard,” said David Pringle of the New Jersey Environmental Federation, who sat on the panel that urged the state to regulate perchlorate. “That being said, I fully lay the blame on the governor’s office. DEP was ready to roll two years ago. It was the governor’s office that prevented us from moving forward faster.“  Jan. 13, 2009 ProPublica

Well fast forward to March 2010 and now we have a new Sheriff in Town, one that was endorsed by Dave Pringle. And what did Christie do?

He issued a moratorium that effectively killed the perchlorate standard finally proposed by DEP in March 2009, after 4 years of delay (barring, of course, unforeseen events between now and March 16, the deadline for the March 2009 proposal to lapse. It is highly unlikely that DEP will be able to respond to sham Red Tape Review process comments by then, because Red Tape review ends on March 15. It would be virtually impossible for DEP to read nonetheless respond to public comments in 24 hours. Of course, Christie or Regulatory Czar Guadagno could exempt perchlorate under the public health exception to Executive Order #1, but that too is highly unlikely because it has not been done thus far. The Perchlorate standard should never have been included  on EO#1 target list in Attachment A. Given the new Christie regulatory policies in EO 1, 2 and 3, any perchlorate MCL is not likely to be re proposed for some time and probably not at the 5 ug/L level. This is just another in numerous examples of how Christie’s Executive Orders are quietly rolling back public health and environmental protections.)

PEER Press Release (use this link for better resolution)

For Immediate Release:  Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Contact:  Bill Wolfe (609) 397-4861; Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

Christie Deep-Sixes New Jersey Perchlorate Standard

“Red Tape” Review Runs Out Clock on Rocket Fuel in Drinking Water Limit

Trenton — A multi-year effort to stem the spread of perchlorate, a chemical found in rocket fuel, in New Jersey drinking water has been blocked by order of Governor Chris Christie, according to documents posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).  As a result, the chemical found in about one in six NJ public water systems will continue to remain unregulated for the foreseeable future despite the strong recommendation of DEP and academic and private water company scientists from NJ Drinking Water Quality Institute that a strict standard is needed.

Perchlorate is a component of rocket fuel that has many other munitions-related uses. The chemical has been shown to cause thyroid tumors and affects thyroid function, especially in infants, pregnant women and their fetuses.  Perchlorate contamination of groundwater has become a national problem, affecting more than 20 states in hundreds of locations.  The Centers for Disease Control has even found perchlorate in infant formula.  In New Jersey, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) found perchlorate in 21 of 67 public water systems sampled.

On March 16, 2009, DEP proposed to enact a maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 5 micrograms per liter (μg/L) for perchlorate in drinking water.  Under the Administrative Procedure Act, any such proposed regulation must be acted upon within one year or the proposal lapses and the regulatory process must start all over again.  As his very first act, Gov. Christie in Executive Order No.1 froze 12 listed regulations that had not been finalized, starting with the perchlorate standard.  That freeze for “Red Tape Review” lasts until March 15, 2010 – just one day before the perchlorate standard lapses.

“Unless Gov. Christie and DEP enacts the perchlorate standard during this one day window, then New Jersey drinking water supplies will continue to expose thousands of unknowing residents to unsafe levels of this toxic chemical associated with rocket fuel and military ordinance that is linked to slowing the development of children’s brains” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, a former DEP analyst, noting that starting the perchlorate regulation process all over again would take at least a year but probably much longer.  “This standard has been ready for years and it is business that Gov. Corzine should have taken care of before he left.”

Heavily impacted states such as California and Massachusetts have enacted their own perchlorate standards since national standards by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have been stymied for years by opposition from the Pentagon.  At her Senate confirmation hearing in early 2009, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson pledged she would address perchlorate but the EPA process remains in limbo.

“When Jackson headed DEP, she also vowed to act on perchlorate beginning in 2006, then in 2007 and finally in 2008 but she never acted and we fear a repeat performance of this shuffle,” Wolfe added.  “Action by EPA may be the only hope, however slim, because the Christie administration gives no sign that it will support any public health protections going forward.”

This upcoming March 10th, the Christie administration has scheduled a public “stakeholders” meeting as part of its moratorium review on pending perchlorate and other Safe Drinking Water Act rules.


Look at the Christie order that tables the perchlorate standard


See the proposed March 2009 New Jersey perchlorate standard


Examine the scientific and public health justification for NJ standard


View status of stalled EPA perchlorate regulatory efforts


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

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