DEP Commissioner Martin Lied About EPA Perchlorate Standard
DEP Commissioner Bob Martin (and the Red Tape Review Group Report) have claimed that Martin abandoned the DEP’s proposed 5 ppb perchlorate drinking water standard “pending the issuance of federal standards from EPA this summer“. (Source: Red Tape Report, Appendix G, @page 113 HERE.]
However, EPA documents we have received via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request show that Martin’s claim is false.
EPA specifically advised Martin that any EPA national drinking water standards would not be in effect for 6 1/2 years. Martin knew that his claim that EPA would “issue standards this summer” to be false at the time he made it. In other words – he lied.
On March 16, EPA reiterated prior EPA guidance and told Martin:
They [Martin] also asked whether the final EPA regulatory determination expected this summer would include a specific MCL or single health based value for perchlorate. I explained that it might give an indication as to what life stage we are focusing on, but it would not include a proposed MCL or MCLG, those values would be part of a proposed rulemaking. ….
They were also interested in the time frames by which NJ would have to implement a federal standard if the agency decides to regulate perchlorate. I explained that the maximum timeframe under the SDWA [Safe Drinking Water Act] is three and a half years to promulgate and 3 more years to implement for a total of six and a half years following a EPA decision to regulate perchlorate.
I hope he is called out on this tomorrow in Senate Budge Committee oversight.
For Immediate Release: Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Contact: Bill Wolfe (609) 397-4861; Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
New Jersey Rationale for Water Quality Delay Is Bogus
Commissioner Claim of Imminent EPA Perchlorate Action Contradicted by E-Mails
Trenton – A decision last month to abandon a multi-year effort to stem the spread of perchlorate, a chemical found in rocket fuel, by New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner on the grounds that federal regulation would be forthcoming “this summer” is contradicted by e-mails from the federal experts who briefed state officials, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). As a result, New Jerseyans will be exposed to growing levels of this dangerous chemical for several years to come without any governmental protection.
E-mails obtained by PEER under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that, contrary to claims by Acting DEP Commissioner Bob Martin, staff from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told him that –
- There was no certain date for any federal action, although one official had predicted that EPA may be poised to take a preliminary step by this summer;
- That preliminary step would not contain a hard limit or maximum contamination level (MCL) as the proposed New Jersey standard would have. At a minimum it would take EPA another two to 3 years to develop even a proposed MCL; and
- The earliest that any federal standard could be implemented in New Jersey would be 6½ years at the earliest from when EPA decided to act, if it decided to act.
Even though Mr. Martin had months to work on the perchlorate issue, he waited until March 12th, just four days before a final deadline to either adopt or reject a proposed state water maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 5 micrograms per liter (ug/L) for perchlorate in drinking water. Martin received his most detailed briefings from EPA on March 16th, the actual day of the deadline. Later that afternoon DEP issued a press release announcing the decision to jettison perchlorate standards, citing impending EPA action.
“Mr. Martin misrepresented the facts, assuming that no one would check what EPA actually told him,â€ stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, a former DEP analyst, noting that state scientists had spent years on their risk assessment using the latest and most rigorous science. “These e-mails show that Bob Martin was scrambling at the last minute to find any reason to overlook the science and the public health concerns to justify the anti-regulatory decision he had apparently already made.”
As yet, there is no federal standard (although there is a guideline of 15 ug/L) while California and Massachusetts have 5 ug/L standards in place. Perchlorate has been found in approximately one-sixth of New Jersey public water systems and 1/3 of residential wells sampled. The chemical affects thyroid function, especially in infants, pregnant women and their fetuses.
New Jersey’s proposed perchlorate standard could have been finalized when EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson served as DEP Commissioner, but she unaccountably delayed her decision. Now New Jersey’s fate on this issue is again in Ms. Jackson’s hands under a time-line that is no less elusive than before.
“Waiting for EPA on perchlorate may be like waiting for Godot,” added Wolfe. “State governments are supposed to protect their citizens, not pass the buck to Washington.”
See the e-mails from EPA experts recounting what they told Martin
View the DEP press release stating Martin’s reasons
Look at the background of the proposed New Jersey perchlorate standards
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