Archive for July, 2010


July 31st, 2010 No comments

Strange fascination, fascinating me
Changes are taking the pace I’m going through

(Turn and face the strain)
Oh, look out you rock ‘n rollers
(Turn and face the strain)
Pretty soon you’re gonna get a little older
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time ~~~
David Bowie “Changes”  (1971)

Terrace Pond (NJ)

Terrace Pond (NJ)



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WolfieLeaks – Since 1994

July 30th, 2010 No comments
Amber (1996) - front porch, hot

Amber – front porch, hot

[Update: 8/8/10 – Outstanding summary of what we believe and what we do, by the incomparable Arthur Silber:

The broader point remains the most critical one. By acting as it does, Wikileaks entirely bypasses the structures of authority, “order” and obedience. By stepping outside them altogether, Wikileaks diminishes their power — and transfers that power to all of us. Just think about what would happen if ten or twenty organizations did this many times a week, releasing “secret” and “confidential” information closely guarded by governments, multinational corporations, and others who exploit, brutalize and act in innumerable destructive and cruel ways. The world as it exists today would be severely threatened as people began to see the details of what is actually transpiring. ~~~ end update.]

Shamelessly smuggling you some Top Secret Truth and Beauty today, under cover of my loyal old dog (since 1994):

At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called “enemy,” I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.

In 1957, a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years, we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which has now justified the presence of U.S. military advisors in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Cambodia and why American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru.

It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin…we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. […]

A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

Beyond Vietnam – A Time to break silence”  (Martin Luther King, Jr. – April 4, 1967, Riverside Church, NYC – excerpt, click on and read the whole thing!)

Are we dead yet?


Daniel Ellsberg, National Press Club speech challenging a new generation of whistleblowers to come forward and calling on the new Democratic Congress to end wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan; avoid war with Iran; and impeach Bush/Cheney (Jan. 4, 2007)

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What is “toilet generated waste”?

July 29th, 2010 No comments

[Update 2 – 8/4/10 – here’s some of those “toilet generated wastes”:

Update 1 – Jim O’Neill of the Bergen Record does a good job expanding the focus and addressing priority issues: N.J. beach water quality ranked 14th“]

I expect corporations, politicians, and government to deploy all sorts of euphemisms and propaganda in their efforts to defend the indefensible.

The classic on this topic remains George Orwell’s 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language“.

Here’s a taste – I urge you to read the whole thing:

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism., question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers.People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. […]

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as “keeping out of politics”.

But I do not expect the same tactics to be used by what are supposed to be sincere environmental advocates.

Environmental groups should have no “gap between their real and declared aims”. There should be no reluctance to “keep out of politics”. Thus, there should be no need to deploy euphemism and defend the indefensible, right?


Today’s special is toilet generated wastes” (modified by “hygiene products“, no less!), a term – until today – I had never come across in my almost 40 years of study and work in the environmental field.

That term is used in a report that obfuscates the real problems and provides cover for those who are responsible for but badly failing to solve those problems.

And the culprits who use these euphemisms enjoy the highest credibility, public support, and media coverage.

Here’s what NRDC Report (dutifully covered by the Star Ledger in N.J. counties delaying warnings, closures for beaches tested for poor water quality“) said –

“Sewer systems in and around the New York/New Jersey Harbor are designed so that during periods of wet weather, excess flows are discharged to the harbor waters. These excess flows contain floating debris comprised of litter and toilet generated waste such as hygiene products.”

First of all, NRDC left out qualifiers before the word “designed”, like “poorly” or “19th century” or “antiquated“. The unqualified use of “design” makes that failing and crumbling  infrastructure seem OK.

Second, don’t miss the circle chart on page 2, where NRDC documents that NJ DEP does not know what 93% of the source of the pollution is, but somehow does know that only 3% of it is from sewage. This clearly is “designed”to let polluters off the hook.

Third, aside from failing to educate the public about a major pollution and infrastructure problem (known as CSO/SSO in the regulatory jargon) and to criticize DEP for poor performance, how is it possible mathematically to calculate 3% of a value that is not known?

And last, the Report fails to emphasize that ecological and public health impacts from raw sewage discharge of “toilet generated waste” are far more significant than the misplaced focus on “litter” and “floating debris”. But when all you’ve got is a hammer (e.g. COA beach litter cleanups, LNG, and cover for NJ Republican governors), everything looks like a nail.

I spent all of 3 minutes reviewing this report and found these major flaws – does anybody edit these things?

Our view is that environmental advocates have a moral duty to tell it like it is, and hold corporately polluters and government accountable. We believe that our efforts suffer when we sugarcoat the bad news and dodge calling out the poor performance of our so called allies leading the government agencies. Worse, obfuscation and pulling punches misleads the public, such that we never generate the kind of public concern and political support to get things done.

The press takes government statements at face value and prints them as fact without any evidence to support them. The overall public perception is that environmental problems are being solved and government agencies are protecting their interests. We all know that this is far from true.

But no wonder things are so wrong, when the advocates themselves lose the ability to speak truth to power, and thereby enable and contribute to this set of problems.

Here’s what NRDC should have said (oh, but that might generate some “political” concerns):

When it rains, antiquated 19th century pipes discharge millions of gallons of raw sewage you flush down your toilet and an unknown stew of toxic chemicals from raw sewage and storm water runoff  to NY Harbor and our ocean waters.

In NJ, 14 sewage plants discharge partially treated sewage to the ocean, hundreds of industries discharged partially treated toxic industrial effluents to rivers that flow to the ocean, and thousands of miles of old sewer lines and septic tanks throughout the coastal zone are leaking raw sewage to groundwater, soils, and local streams.

On top of all this crap that winds up in the ocean, are the toxic discharges to groundwater and surface runoff from thousands of leaky old toxic waste sites and landfills that have not been cleaned up.

River sediments, poisoned by more than 100 years of industrial waste discharges, with toxic chemicals like PCB’s from the Hudson River, and dioxin, chromium, heavy metals, and a stew of organic chemicals from the Passaic River, continue to impact coastal ecosystems and public health (as great or greater impacts than banned ocean dumping??).

When you go swimming in the ocean or eat fish and shellfish, you are exposed to all these chemicals, bacteria, and viruses.

Scientists have very little understanding of how these chemicals effect human health and ecosystems.

But available data suggest that all this pollution has a significant negative impact on the declining health of ocean ecosystems and fisheries.

The NJ DEP has a very poor handle on all of this – according to the State’s own reports, 93% of pollution sources are not identified by the DEP.

For years, DEP has failed across many fronts in regulating and enforcing pollution and land use controls.

Worse, the current Christie Administration is engaged in an across the board assault on regulations and DEP’s remaining resources supporting science, monitoring, permitting and enforcement capabilities.

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The Price of Life in Martinville – Where Life is Cheap

July 28th, 2010 No comments

I want to clarify and provide more documentation to support my recent post Christie DEP Says Your Life is Worth $404,103″

I just read that post again and I realized that fuller explanation in order, because it is so important and because I glossed over some key points. A a result, I may have given some a misleading impression.

So walk with me through this, as I try to boil down the legal and scientific complexity to its essence. I assure you, I saved the best for last, so read on!

The critical issue of concern in the NJ Drinking Water Quality Institute’ February 2009 Report is whether DEP should adopt a drinking water standard (known as an “MCL”, short for”maximum contaminant level” ) for known carcinogen radon 222 and if so, at what level that MCL should be set.

The NJ Safe Drinking Water Act mandates that MCL’s be set for carcinogens at a risk of one in a million (individual excess cancer risk over a lifetime of exposure).

Scientists do risk assessments to derive an MCL based on that risk level. That level of cancer risk is deemed to be “acceptable risk” under NJ law.

The scientifically derived one in a million risk level for exposure to radon 222 is 1.5 picocuries per liter (second paragraph, page 22).

The Subcommittee determined that the drinking water concentration resulting in a one-in one million excess cancer risk over a lifetime exposure for radon in water is 1.5 pCi/L, (second paragraph, page 22).

There are over 1.1 MILLION NJ residents exposed to over 300 picocuries per liter, a level that is two hundred times the acceptable risk level (see Table 4, page 15)

Scientists on the DWQI recommended that DEP adopt an MCL of 800 picocuries per liter (see page 3) – they ignored recommending a drinking water standard for private residential wells, pending additional study.

 “NJDEP should initiate rulemaking to establish a MCL of 800 pCi/L of radon in water for community public water supply system” (see page 3)

For over 18 months, DEP has ignored those recommendations and not warned the public about those known risks or invited public comment into their bureaucratic deliberations (which, while shutting out the public did include private water companies) on an MCL that would impact public health.

The cancer risk level for 800 picocuries is 5 in 10,000 (Table 3, page 13)– – that is 500 times higher than NJ’s “acceptable risk” standard of one in a million for carcinogens.

The number of additional deaths between an 800 pico curie versus a 300 standard is 173 (derived from Table 4 page 15).

There is no estimate even provided for the incremental deaths between the risk based 1.5 picocurie MCL versus the recommended  800, but it must be large due to very high exposure rates (over 1.1 million people in NJ are exposed to greater than 300, but not data is provided for the 1.5 risk based number).

The DWQI made the unsafe recommendation of 800 based on a narrow and overly legalistic interpretation of the NJ SDWA – not based on science.

The Act explicitly applies to chemicals that cause cancer (from drinking water exposure pathway), but is silent on radiological emissions from chemicals that cause cancer (via the inhalation pathway).

The DWQI recommendation was based on a differentiation of the mechanism of cancer causation and exposure pathway (in this case radiation). The DWQI is treating cancers caused by chemicals differently than cancers from radiation, which ironically comes from chemicals. While this is biologically accurate, as the mechanisms or carcinogenesis are different, it is absurd law and public policy.

This distinction is an absurd and unwise distinction without a difference that does not protect public health or comply with the spirit of the SDWA.

The DWQI was really concerned about costs of treatment to this health based risk level (i.e. 1.5 picocuries per liter). However, there are legitimate questions as to whether technology can reach this number.

But regardless of the treatment technology issue for 1.5, which can achieve the recommended 800 picocurie per liter standard, the estimated cost at 800 it is $404,103 per life saved (or death avoided) (see Table 6, page 20)

That’s where the DEP’s new “cost benefit analysis” (CBA) policy under Governor Christie’s Executive Order #2 comes in.

You see, that unsafe 800 MCL is too low and costs too much for the poorly trained and amoral economists running the DEP!

So, let’s provide a hypothetical to break down that cost estimate (it is not a true CBA, because no benefits are considered. It is merely a cost of death estimate.)

Let’s assume a small town of 10,000 people. Let’s call it “Martinville”, which is served by the “Christie Water Company” well.

At a cancer risk of 5 in 10,000 (at exposure to 800 picoruies per liter MCL), according to DWQI death cost estimates, Christie Water Company would have to incur treatment costs of $2,020,515.

So, they would have to charge the water customers of Martinville to pay for that system.

Over a 20 year period, payments for that system would cost about $4.04 million. (Sorry, I don’t have a financial calculator, so will take shortcuts and assume a 3.5% interest rate over 20 years, which neatly doubles the initial amount – rule of 70!. Sorry, cant do annual payments and NPV discounted cash flow).

To estimate the impact on individuals of Martinville, lets say $4.04 million/20 years = $202,000/yr

$202,000 year/10,000 residents = $20 per year per person

($20/year/person)/12 months -= $1.68/month/person

($20/year/person)/(365 days/year) = 5.5 cents per day!

So, as we can see, life is cheap and brutal in Martinville under the thumb of the Christie Water Company.

But not in NJ! –

Do you think there is any local government in this state that would oppose increasing water rates 5.5 cents per day to save 5 people’s lives?

Didn’t think so!

So be sure to look for the unsafe levels in water in your town – see Appendix II and III, starting on page 29 (click here) –

The fact that this key information is buried at the end in Appendices only confirms the sage advice of perhaps our best journalist, IF (“Izzy”) Stone, who famously said:

“Always read government documents from back to front – all the good stuff  is in the attachments!”

IF Stone is also famous for saying:

All governments lie.

Amen bro!

The Subcommittee determined that the drinking water concentration resulting in a one-inone
million excess cancer risk over a lifetime exposure for radon in water is 1.5 pCi/L,
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A Case of Bad Timing – Sprawl Report Sure To Stoke Backlash

July 28th, 2010 5 comments

The conventional wisdom – and code words – for today’s page one story “Rowan, Rutgers study says N.J. is running out of open space, renews urban sprawl debate” is that:

the report has renewed the volatile sprawl debates in the state

So we thought we’d give readers a sense of the volatility.

We are much indebted to those brave academics at Rutgers and Rowan. They do fine technical work on land use/land cover and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) map depiction of that data. But their sense of timing is less than impeccable.

In fact, over 3 years ago, we released very similar data from Rutgers and Rowan researchers (see below). And for years prior to that, we testified at numerous legislative hearings and DEP regulatory proceedings to inject that work to support stronger land use and water resource protection laws, policies, and regulations.

Those efforts fell on deaf ears in the press, the legislature, and over at DEP.

The academics and planners at places like NJ Future generally were nowhere to be found – unless they were supporting even more growth and undermining DEP environmental, infrastructure (water and sewer) and land use regulations.

We note that the academics were extremely reluctant to discuss their work (one reason why we chose to release it), or educate the public about the implications of their data, or engage the “volatile” policy debate. Of course, that abdication unwittingly undermined our efforts.

So, a significant part of the problem is that those same academics have sat on the sidelines for two decades as the sprawl boom consumed the NJ landscape.

But now, those same academics take a high profile in releasing land use/land cover data – but, as they say, the horse has been galloping out of the barn for years.

Worse, given the economic recession and the policy agenda of the Christie Administration with respect to environmental regulations (i.e. “Red Tape”), DEP (i.e. “a barrier to economic development”), and the Highlands Act (i.e. “needs to be repealed”), that data can only feed the backlash.

And kicking the builders when they are down is only going to help those rollback efforts.

In this context, this report can only lead to attacks on land preservation and environmental regulation as the cause of the collapse of the housing industry.

The KHov spinsmeister already laid down that line in today’s story, i.e. (paraphrasing) “we’ve got plenty of land, it just that too much is preserved. We better stop that and rollback preservation, the Highlands, and land use regulations at DEP to stimulate the market and create jobs”.

This Big Lie issue framing has been building for months – it has tremendous momentum, has been accepted as the dominant narrative by the media, and has gone virtually unchallenged by the disorganized and clueless environmental community.

Hold on to your hats, you are about to experience some of that unspecified “volatility” – see below.

For Immediate Release: April 16, 2007

Contact: Bill Wolfe (609) 397-4861; Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

WHEN IT RAINS…IT FLOODS — New Jersey Continues to Lose War on Sprawl New Figures Show

Trenton — Amidst a backdrop of another day of major statewide flooding, the latest study shows that New Jersey, already the nation’s most densely populated state, continues to lose farmland, forests and open space to development, according to figures posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). This rampant and accelerating loss of land comes despite state officials’ claims that they are “winning the war on sprawl” and the “race for open space.”

Due to the flooding, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection DEP) abruptly cancelled a briefing today on the most recent data on land use/land cover from a Rutgers/Rowan University Study. Based on aerial photographs taken between 1995 and 2002, the study shows New Jersey suffered a rapid rate of urban development and loss of open space:

  • Urban Development Rate. From 1995-2002, urban development spread over another 105,988 acres of New Jersey’s landscape. The annual rate of urban development statewide during that period was 15,140 acres per year. This represents an increase in the rate of development from the 1986 to 1995 period rate of 14,886 acres per year;
  • Loss of Open Space. The majority of open space loss was farmland (55,530 net acres lost); and
  • Hotspots for forest, farmland, and wetlands losses. The study shows a significant increase in the conversion of forest land since the previous period. The major hotspots of upland forest loss (more than 500 acres per year) include the coastal counties of Atlantic, Monmouth and Ocean, where the annual rates of forest loss have all significantly increased (+58%, +82%, and +59%, respectively) and Morris county (north central Jersey) which lost approximately 741 acres per year. Wetlands loss followed a largely similar pattern to the areas of rapid development, with coastal and central counties experiencing the greatest loss.

“This data shows that what we are doing is not working,” stated New Jersey PEER Director, Bill Wolfe, referring to DEP touting the combination of the State Development and Redevelopment Plan, strict environmental regulation, the Highlands Act, and the Green Acres/Farmland Preservation land acquisition programs. “These alarming findings validate the views of my esteemed colleague, Bill Neil, former Audubon Society Conservation Director, who called the State Plan the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on the people of New Jersey.”

The continued loss of wetlands, forests and farmlands aggravates the effect of storm surges and storm-related flooding. In addition, it negatively affects watershed protection, carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat, recreation, and other important values.

DEP has been delaying the adoption of long-promised new regulations to strictly regulate development, protect threatened and endangered species habitat, impose stream buffers, and prohibit extension of water, sewer and septic system infrastructure to all remaining environmentally sensitive lands.

“State officials need to get serious about preserving what’s left of our rapidly vanishing landscape before the bulldozers pave what is left,” Wolfe concluded.


View the Rutgers/Rowan University study data

Look at today’s “by invitation only” DEP data briefing invitation

Read about past DEP failures to enforce regulations

Note delays in adopting coastal protections

Examine PEER comments urging tougher rules for stream buffers

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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