Home > Uncategorized > DEP Abandons Toxic Chemical Phase Out Regulation – Instead Pays Polluters Not To Pollute

DEP Abandons Toxic Chemical Phase Out Regulation – Instead Pays Polluters Not To Pollute

Christie Administration’s “shared sacrifice” –  Polluters profit while people get sick

[Update: you need to read the original post first to understand this, but I wanted to clarify and expand based on a conversation that just emerged in a discussion of this issue on a national TCE (perc) listserve. The listserve discussion was focused on vapor intrusion of chemicals into about 450 homes in Pompton Lakes NJ from the Dupont site.

A national vapor intrusion expert replied to my post to note that dry cleaned clothes can “off gas” perc in homes, and resemble vapor intrusion. I agreed, and said that perc also can enter homes from nearby industrial emission sources (e.g. dry cleaners, chemical plants, et al). 

I then tried to explain why this all was related and why I was so disgusted by the DEP press release touting the dry cleaner grant program.

You see, the “new” NJ DEP leadership makes a lot of noise in the press, especially in the Pompton Lakes community, that they are aggressively acting to protect public health. They say that now that they are aware of what’s going on in Pompton Lakes, they have have made protecting the community a priority (in contrast to 25 years of prior DEP administration’s, who apparently either didn’t know or care about Dupont PL)

I don’t know how they pull that off, because the current Deputy Commissioner – who some say is really running the DEP due to the Commissioner’s lack of qualifications and experience - was the former head of the “broken” Site Remediation Program, which had “oversight” of Dupont, Pompton Lakes. In fact, her first public appearance as Deputy Commissioner was in Pompton Lakes,  where she was almost tarred and feathered for her comments and arrogant demeanor that gravely insulted residents.   

The key point is that DEP has huge regulatory power to protect public health from serious known risks that they are NOT using. The abandonment of the perc phase our rule is just one example of that.

In addition to the sham Pompton Lakes claims, DEP engages in BS PR stunts like the $5 million dry cleaner grant program – they even have the chutzpah to note this:

 “Priorities for the grant money are dry cleaners located in residential settings, such as apartment buildings or mixed commercial and residential strip malls, and those located within 50 feet of day care centers.”

While DEP may consider proximity and residetnial/day care location risk in the dry cleaner grant program, the larger reality is:

1) DEP has no statewide vapor intrusion (VI) program. What DEP does on VI risks is site specific and privatized. The pace and extent of any VI investigation and remedy is under the control of polluters, not based on public health. DEP is well aware of scores of volatile organic contaminant groundwater plumes under occupied buildings that cause VI risks, yet does nothing to warn or protect the people in those buildings ;

2) DEP is well aware of the fact that the DHSS school and day care center VI risk standards are based on a 1 in 10,000 risk level. Instead of adopting protective regulations using a  more conservative  risk standard for this extremely sensitive sub-population (i.e. children), current NJ school and day care standards are 100 time WEAKER than other DEP soil, water, and VI standards, which are based on 1 in a million risk level (which is derived by risk assessments that assume a health adult male exposure, not a developing chilld’s!); and

3) DEP does not have air quality standards or enforceable permit regulations to address exactly the kind of risky and unacceptable situation they describe in their press release, e.g. when an industrial emission source is located very close to homes or schools, DEP does not consider those health risks in setting permit emission limits on that source!!!

DEP knows all this irresponsible abdication, yet they get away with writing Orwellian press releases – which amounts to lying to the public – and no one calls them on it! – reporters instead stenographhically praise DEP for it! end Update]

In a press release today, DEP squares the circle  –  instead of strictly regulating toxic polluters to protect the public health, DEP is providing grants to them.

But back in the December 17, 2007 NJ Register, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) proposed a strong rule to phase out the use of the toxic chemical perchloroethylene (perc) at 1,600 dry cleaners. According to the US EPA, perc is one of the top 10 toxic air pollutants in all 21 NJ counties.

According to the 2007 DEP proposal, scientific studies by the DEP and others found that perc caused unacceptable health risks to thousands of NJ residents. According to the USEPA Science Advisory Board, perc is classified as a possible human carcinogen and is known to cause serious non-cancer health effects. California lists perc as a chemical known to cause cancer  (read the “Health and Environmental Effects” in the DEP proposal (@p.3-6) and see this for full ATSDR public health profile).

Public Notice
Take notice that the NJ Department of Environmental Protection is proposing new rules to be included in N.J.A.C. 7:27-17, Control and Prohibition of Air Pollution by Toxic Substances. A statement of the substance of the proposal follows:

The Department is proposing to regulate the use and air emissions of perchloroethylene, an air toxic regulated by N.J.A.C. 7:27-17, in the dry cleaning industry. New Jersey has approximately 1600 dry cleaning facilities, with approximately 1800 dry cleaning machines, the majority of which utilize perchloroethylene, also known as perc, PCE or tetrachloroethylene.

The Department is proposing amendments to N.J.A.C.7:27-17 that will require a transition from the use of perchloroethylene at dry cleaning facilities to alternative technologies. Full transition from perchloroethylene dry cleaners would occur by January 1, 2021. Starting January 1, 2010, facilities must replace perchloroethylene equipment classified as third generation equipment with fourth generation equipment, or install a vapor barrier.

The Department also proposes requirements that operators of all existing and new perchloroethylene machines comply with Federal rules for perchloroethylene dry cleaners. The Department anticipates that implementation of these proposed amendments to N.J.A.C.7:27-17 would reduce perchloroethylene emissions in New Jersey by at least 467 tons per year and possible as much as 545 tons per year.

The proposal is scheduled to be published in the New Jersey Register dated December 17, 2007. A copy of the proposal is available from: http://www.nj.gov/dep/rules/proposals/121707b.pdf.

DEP’s 2007 proposed regulatory phase out of perc was quietly abandoned as a result of politcal pressure by polluters. You can thank Lisa Jackson for that profile in courage.

But today, DEP squares the circle and instead of strictly regulating these toxic polluters to protect the public health, DEP is providing grants to them.

Even worse, the entire idea of an industry complying with health based regulation had been scrapped.  That is now viewed as some form of “sacrifice” that must be rewarded by pro-business DEP Commissioner Bob Martin:

IMMEDIATE RELEASE:        
June 4, 2010

Contact: Lawrence Ragonese (609) 292-2994
               Lawrence Hajna       (609) 984-1795

INNOVATIVE DEP GRANT PROGRAM HELPS DRY CLEANERS  REDUCE USE OF HARMFUL AIR POLLUTANT

(10/P52)TRENTON- The Department of Environmental Protection is offering dry cleaners a first-in-the-nation grant program to help them protect the air by replacing dry cleaning machines that use harmful chemicals with new, environmentally friendly models.

The DEP has targeted machines that use the chemical perchlolroethylene (PCE) in the dry cleaning process for replacement or upgrades to dramatically reduce the amount of the toxic chemical emitted into the air. This effort may reduce emissions of this pollutant by as much as 450 tons each year.

“This is another step forward in improving air quality in New Jersey,” said Commissioner Bob Martin. “In this case, we are reducing toxic emissions while also easing the burden on small business owners who are being asked to make sacrifices for the public good.”  

The DEP has established a $5 million fund for the cleanup program. The DEP received the money in a settlement of a lawsuit filed against three coal-fired Midwestern power companies that create air pollution that blows toward New Jersey.

There are about 1,700 PCE-using, dry cleaning machines in New Jersey. Priorities for the grant money are dry cleaners located in residential settings, such as apartment buildings or mixed commercial and residential strip malls, and those located within 50 feet of day care centers. (complete release, see this)

Is this what the Christie Administration means by “shared sacrifice”? Polluters profit while people get sick.

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