Home > Uncategorized > DEP Rejects Drinking Water Protections – More than 500 Chemicals Remain Unregulated

DEP Rejects Drinking Water Protections – More than 500 Chemicals Remain Unregulated

Continued inaction means our internal organs will be the main filter for the thickening brew of chemicals in our water

[Update: 12/15/10 – Ed Rodgers of NJN reports (watch it  – starts at 18 minutes) on a National Toxicology Report on another unregulated chemical known as “SAN Trimer” found in Toms River water supply. There is some association between these chemicals and a children’s brain cancer and leukemia cluster. NJ Dept. of Health found:

One issue that residents voiced was concern over the quality of drinking water from the community water supply. In response, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection launched an extensive analysis of the community water supply, beginning with schools in the Toms River area in March 1996. The Drinking Water Quality Analyses March 1996 – June 1999; United Water Toms River Public Health Consultation summarized three years of chemical and radiological analyses of the community drinking water supply. A previously unknown chemical contaminant related to the Reich Farm site styrene-acrylonitrile trimer — was identified in the Parkway well field (one of the supply’s eight well fields), resulting in the closure of two wells and an expanded water treatment system. Also, the testing program led to the development of a new sampling and analysis method to measure radiological activity in water. Long-term toxicologic testing of the new chemical contaminant is in progress, under the direction of the USEPA. [end update]

In another in a series of breakdowns in drinking water protections, DEP rejected NJ PEER’s petition to force DEP to adopt protections for over 500 chemicals DEP has found in scores of public water supply systems across NJ.

PEER petitioned DEP to require public disclosure, and to develop monitoring and treatment requirements for these chemicals.

DEP has failed to act on a policy for unregulated chemicals in drinking water that was recommended by DEP scientists 6 years ago.  Pilot treatment plants at public water supply systems in Fair Lawn (Bergen County) and Pennsauken (Camden County) are years behind schedule and may never even happpen.

DEP rejected the PEER petition, in part, based on a claim that US EPA was developing a new national policy. That excuse sounded much like the lie we documented that Commissioner Martin used to kill DEP’s proposed perchlorate drinking water standard and failed to move forward with regulations for radioactive contaminants.

DEP’s head in the sand approach illustrates major flaws in Governor Christie’s “federal consistency” policy in Executive Order #2, which discourages more stringent NJ State level standard in lieu of federal requirements, and the sham political strategy to block DEP rules as “red tape” that harms NJ’s economy. Both policies seriously weaken public health and environmental protections.

For the PEER petition and DEP’s denial and related documents, see below.

For Immediate Release: December 14, 2010
Contact: Bill Wolfe (609) 397-4861; Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

JERSEY NIXES FILTRATION PLAN FOR DRINKING WATER – State Wants EPA to Act on Rising Chemical Contamination of Water Supplies

Trenton – The State of New Jersey has rejected a rulemaking petition to require systematic monitoring and filtering of drinking water. As a result, state residents will continue to ingest hundreds of unregulated chemicals daily as New Jersey steps back from its leadership role on the issue.

The petition filed in early September by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) was based upon a plan developed by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) back in 2004 that was never implemented. That plan and the PEER petition called for monitoring water supplies for the growing presence of unregulated chemicals from pharmaceuticals, consumer products and industry and using treatment systems, such as granular activated carbon filtration, to remove most chemicals.

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin rejected the PEER petition on November 22, 2010 in an “action notice” slated for publication next week in the New Jersey Register. In his notice, Martin conceded that state testing has detected “approximately 600″ chemical compounds in water systems but argued that action was premature because DEP, among other reasons

  • Lacks information on the toxicity levels for the vast majority (78%) of chemicals detected;
  • Is just now getting around to building pilot filtration systems at two water treatment plants paid for back in 2004 although Martin did not say when these systems will be operational; and
  • Wants to wait for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop a national “Drinking Water Strategy” although there is no timetable for a viable plan or any regulatory action.

“Commissioner Martin is still not ready to move forward on the plan his own department developed six years ago,” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, a former DEP analyst, noting that Martin even rejected coordinated chemical monitoring and public disclosure of results. “Continued inaction means our internal organs will be the main filter for the thickening brew of chemicals in our water.”

At the same time, there are no state standards for many of the most dangerous chemicals in drinking water, such as formaldehyde, because DEP has sat on recommended standards from its Drinking Water Quality Institute (DWQI), an impasse extended by the anti-regulatory agenda of the Christie administration. Moreover, the DWQI itself appears to be in limbo, as DEP is deferring to its newly created Science Advisory Board (SAB) that features strong corporate representation for guidance on unregulated contaminants.

“Chemical companies now control the decision-making about New Jersey’s drinking water standards,” added Wolfe, noting that companies like DuPont (which has employees and consultants in key SAB slots) have a huge financial stake in keeping their chemicals from being regulated. “As things stand, we are all guinea pigs in an uncontrolled lifelong corporate chemical experiment.”


Read the PEER petition

See the basis for the petition

Compare the DEP rejection

Look at spreading pharmaceuticals in drinking water

View corporate presence on DEP Science Advisory Board

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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