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Looking for the Water From a Deeper Well

May 31st, 2012 No comments

Are We Over The Rainbow Yet?

“Just click your heels three times(watch it!)

Now, fast forward, and look and see how far we’ve come 75 years later, where we find:

Vitalis blogs and travels throughout North America to find new springs and speak about “rewilding,” a term he uses for people getting back in touch with natural elements of the earth. When people visit a spring to gather water, he said, a transformation occurs: the source of the water that goes into their bodies shifts from the marketplace to the Earth.

Don’t know about you, but I’m looking for the water from a deeper well (listen):

The sun burned hot, it burned my eyes 
Burned so hot I thought I’d died 
Thought I’d died and gone to hell 
Lookin’ for the water from a deeper well 
I went to the river but the river was dry 
I fell to my knees an I looked to the sky 
I looked to the sky and the spring rain fell 
I saw the water from a deeper well 

Well…lookin for the water from a deeper well 
Well…lookin for the water from a deeper well 

I was ready for love I was ready for the money 
Ready for the blood and ready for the honey 
Ready for the winnin’, ready for the bell 
Lookin’ for the water from a deeper well 
I found some love and I found some money 
Found that blood would drip from the honey 
Found I had a thirst that I could not quell 
Lookin’for the water from a deeper well 

Well…lookin for the water from a deeper well 
Well…lookin for the water from a deeper well 

Well I did it for kicks and I did it for faith 
I did it for lust and I did it for hate 
I did it for need and I did it for love 
Addiction stayed on tight like a glove 
So I ran with the moon and I ran with the night 
And the three of us were a terrible sight 
Nipple to the bottle to the gun to the cell 
To the bottom of a hole of a deeper well 

Well…lookin for the water from a deeper well 
Well…lookin for the water from a deeper well 

I rocked with the cradle and I rolled with the rage 
I shook those walls and I rattled that gage 
I took my trouble down a deadend trail 
Reachin’ out a hand for a holier grail 
Hey there mama did you carry that load 
Did you tell your baby ’bout the bend in the road 
‘Bout the rebel yell ’bout the one that fell 
Lookin’ for the water from a deeper well 

Well…lookin for the water from a deeper well 
Well…lookin for the water from a deeper well   ~~~ Emmylou Harris

 

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Clean Water Enforcement Act Provides Sharp Contrast With Christie “Flexibility” Policy

May 31st, 2012 No comments

DEP Failure to Report Data Frustrates Transparency and Accountability

This is Part Three of our Clean Water series, looking at how DEP has fallen down on the job of protecting water resources (with an important end note for wonks only].

The policy of the 1990 Clean Water Enforcement Act (CWEA) is the exact opposite of the Christie Administration.

So, release of the legislatively mandated CWEA annual report would shine a bright light on these sharp contrasts and provide  an opportunity for the public to understand how the DEP  was reconciling the Legislative mandate of the CWEA with the Governor’s policies.

Is DEP honoring the will of the Legislature or the Governor? Is strict enforcement being compromised? Are enforcement fines going down?

We don’t know, because DEP has not issued the mandated annual report for the enforcement performance of the Christie Administration. Annual Reports are due by March 31, a date timed to allow legislative consideration during DEP’s annual budget review.

(here is the most recent CWEA 2009 “Annual report”, issued based on 2009 calendar year data, the final year of the Corzine Administration.)

I don’t recollect DEP ever falling over 2 years behind in issuing the annual report, so this delay probably is not an accident.

So, let’s look more closely at those contrasts.

The CWEA mandates annual facility inspection and sets mandatory penalties for permit violations, thereby eliminating DEP discretion and flexibility.

In fact, the key feature and primary objective of the Act was to eliminate DEP discretion.

The Legislature determined was necessary after studies showed that DEP had systematically abused its “enforcement discretion”. The data revealed that DEP had failed to take enforcement action in over 90% of violations of water pollution control permits, making those permits a joke.

The philosophy of the CWEA is enforcement driven and punitive.

The Act created a regulatory program that promotes compliance via strict penalties, not incentives, cooperative partnerships, compliance assistance,  voluntary compliance, and informal dispute negotiation approaches.

As such, in its key features the CWEA provides a sharp contrast with the Christie Administration’s pro-business anti-regulatory policy.

The Christie policy is epitomized by the DEP waiver rule, which is designed to provide maximum discretion and flexibility to the DEP Commissioner.

A perfect illustration of this policy contrast between CWEA and Christie Administration, DEP’ enforcement webpage provides this “Compliance Advisory Enforcement Alert update: (and notice the link to legislative intent, a clear attempt to address the Legislative Veto, which is up in the Senate today)

Strict compliance with rules can sometimes produce unreasonable, unfair or unintended results that may actually undermine, rather than advance, the legislative intent of its enabling statutes or rules. In response to Governor Christie’s Executive Order No. 2, which directs State agencies to implement common sense principles, the DEP will accept requests for waivers of a rule requirement beginning August 1, 2012.

Aside from the fact that a mere 1 sentence reference to Legislative Intent is absurd on its face, just what are the policies behind that “common sense” slogan?

“Common sense” in a nutshell:  Executive Order #2 mandates  ”immediate relief from regulatory burdens”, to be provided via:

  • “advance notice of rules” (more access and control for business)
  • “time of decision rules” (provides technical loopholes in when rules apply)
  • “waivers from strict compliance” (no need to explain)
  • “cost benefit analysis” (undermines protections via flawed or immoral methods)
  • “consistency  with federal standards” (rollback of strict NJ standards to federal minimums)
  • “compliance eduction” (holding polluters hands and slapping their wrists)
  • “customer service” (DEP works for polluters, not the public)

So, there it is.

Christie policy of “regulatory relief” and “waivers” simply contradict the Legislature’s CWEA policy.

So, when will a bold legislator conduct oversight and demand accountability at DEP?

When will some intrepid reporter start asking some questions?

When will environmental groups put the heat on?

We’ll keep you posted.

[end note for wonks only: mandatory enforcement becomes even more important as compliance with the Clean Water Act TMDL and "water quality based effluent limits" (WQBELs) drive stricter permit limits.

No doubt, the mandatory penalties of the CWEA have weakened existing permits, because DEP seeks to provide a compliance "cushion" to polluters and protection from mandatory penalties for permit violations.

Those cushions evaporate as TMDL's and WQBEL's are imposed - which explains the slow pace of the TMDL program and reversal  of the McGreevey Administration's WQBEL policies.

 In accordance with the NJPDES rules @ N.J.A.C 7:14A-13.5(a), water quality based effluent limitations (WQBELs) are required when a pollutant or pollutants,

“...are or may be discharged at a level which will cause, have the reasonable potential to cause, or contribute to an excursion above the Surface Water Quality Standards.” 

EPA needs to step in to rectify this, because no one else seems to be paying attention.]

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DEP Has Not Reported Residential Drinking Water Well Data for Over 5 Years

May 30th, 2012 No comments

How Safe is Your Drinking Water? Don’t Ask DEP

Thousands of wells sampled - over 12% found polluted and unsafe (source: NJDEP)

What You Don’t Know Can Kill You

[Update - DEP Managers must be reading Wolfenotes, because just 2 weeks after this post, Todd Bates reported that:

N.J. DEP provides detailed private well test results

Posted on June 14, 2012, by Todd B. Bates

The state Department of Environmental Protection just posted detailed results of private well testing in New Jersey.

This is not nearly the first time that Wolfenotes has had an impact on DEP action. End Update]

This is the second issue we explore in the clean water series.

If you live in one of the more than 400,000 NJ homes that get drinking water from a private well, the odds are about 1 in 8 that your water is unsafe to drink.

Let’s repeat that: if your water comes from a private well, the odds are 1 in 8 that it is polluted and unsafe to drink.

That shocking statistic was reported by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP) in a 2007 Report of data collected under a 2001 law known as the Private Well Testing Act.

If your neighbor’s well – located close to your well – is contaminated, you probably don’t know about it, because the law does not require public disclosure or adjacent landowner notice. In fact, the information is confidential. DEP lays out what happens after contamination is discovered:

Once the local health authority is notified electronically by NJDEP or directly by the laboratory, the health authorities may (but are not required to) notify property owners within the vicinity of the failing well. However, because these individual tests are considered confidential, the exact location of the well test failure cannot be identified. 

Since that 2007 Report,  the DEP has not publicly reported the results of testing of private drinking water wells for over 5 years.

After the law was passed in 2001, the initial PWTA Report was issued in 2004, and the second 3 years later in 2007. As the program matures, reporting frequency should increase, annual Reports should be the norm. So, what explains the 5 + year delay?

All this is scandalous, no?

The most recent DEP report was issued for data collected from from September 2002 through April 2007, over 5 years ago.

This DEP failure to report actual drinking water well data comes at a time when DEP’s DrinkingWater Quality Institute - which sets safe drinking water standards – has not met for over 20 months and DEP has failed to enact updated drinking water standards to reflect current science recommended by the DWQI for more than 30 chemicals, including:

  • formaldehyde; methyl ethyl ketone; benzene; vinyl chloride;
  • radioactive compounds radium and uranium
  • perchlorate (found in rocket fuel and explosive)

One of the most worrisome findings of the DWQI was the need to enact new very strict limits on highly toxic contaminants, such as 1,2,3- trichloropropane, about which the DWQI stated:

“1,2,3-TCP is DNA-reactive, clearly genotoxic and mutagenic, caused tumors in a number of tissues in both the rat and the mouse, and metastatic forestomach tumors were found in variety of locations.”

So, the odds are actually greater than 1 in 8 that unsafe pollutants are in your well water and flowing out the tap in your kitchen sink.

But it is not only the quality of drinking water that is of concern.

Similar management failures at DEP involve the quantity of drinking water.

The legislative mandated Statewide Water Supply Master Plan Update is many years overdue – thecurrent plan was adopted in 1996, and is based on data even older than that.

As a result of DEP inaction, the public is in the left in the dark regarding the safety of drinking water and quality and quantity of public water supplies.

According to DEP scientists, the Private well Testing Act:

In March 2001, the New Jersey Private Well Testing Act (PWTA) was signed into law, and its regulations became effective in September 2002. The PWTA is a consumer information law that requires sellers (or buyers) of property with wells in NJ to test the untreated ground water for a variety of water quality parameters, including 32 of human health concern, and to review the test results prior to closing of title.  …

New Jersey (NJ) is the most densely populated state in the U.S. It is estimated that over 85% of NJ’s 8,700,000 residents (2007 census estimate) obtain their drinking water from public water systems. The potable quality of the water derived from these systems is assured through a variety of federal and state drinking water regulations. There are no federal regulations assuring the quality of the water consumed by the population who obtain their drinking water from private wells, either in single residences or multiple unit buildings.

Over the years, a number of contamination events have occurred in private wells throughout the state. As a result of these events, in 2000 legislation was proposed to assure the quality of water drawn from private wells. On March 23, 2001, the New Jersey Private Well Testing Act (PWTA) was signed into law (NJSA, 2001) and its regulations became effective September 16, 2002 (NJ Reg, 2002). One county in NJ (Ocean) had a private well test program in place prior to passage of the statewide PWTA. That program was begun in 1987.

We have written about the alarming results of prior DEP Private Well Testing Act Reports (see:

We have also tried to warn the public about DEP’s failure to update numerous drinking water standards and the collapse of the Drinking Water Quality Institute (see:

What will it take to get DEP to do its job to set science based drinking water standards and provide current data to homeowners and consumers about the safety of  NJ’s drinking water ?

When will DEP:

  • allow the DWQI to meet;
  • upgrade drinking water standards as recommended by the DWQI;
  • adopt regulations on hundreds of chemicals known to be present in water supplies?
  • release the long awaited Water Supply Master Plan Update, which is years behind schedule?
  • Issue the latest Report of PWTA data?
  • Require state of the art treatment of all drinking water sources?

To paraphrase William Greider, Who will Tell The People?

When will reporters and legislators begin to ask DEP tough questions about these unprecedented failures to protect public health?

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DEP Ignoring Clean Water Needs

May 29th, 2012 No comments

Thinking of cooler days - Delaware River from Bowman's Tower (11/25/11)

 

A combination of heat, allergies, and allergy medicines have me knocked down today, so we’ll take this time to preview an upcoming series of posts on DEP performance.

Sunday, I wrote the first in the series: DEP Fails Clean Water Metric – EPA Battle Brewing

That kickoff post focused on the Clean Water Act TMDL program.

We show that DEP recently has taken action to use the TDML program to rollback pollution limits for sewage plants discharging to highly sensitive trout streams, and preview a battle brewing on DEP’s pending rollback of “Category One” (C1) stream buffers.

Here’s the next few topics for the next week or so, all with the common themes of water and lack of performance (tipping my hand, so DEP spinmeisters can anticipate and get out front!):

  • How’s Your Drinking Water? DEP has Not Reported Well Data For Over 5 Years
  • How is the Clean Water Enforcement Act Doing in the Age of Christie “Regulatory Relief”? – Don’t Know – Reports Delayed
  • Are Permit Extension Act and Waiver Rule Justified?  Despite Claims that DEP Permit Review Blocks Economic Development, DEP Permit Status Management Report Backlogged
  • DEP Recycles 3 Year Old Stormwater Report as Barnegat Bay Model
  • Millions of Gallons of Raw Sewage Enter NJ Rivers Every Time It Rains – Yet DEP CSO Program Dead in the Water
  • North Jersey Water War Highlights Need for Water Supply Plan and Upgrades in Pollution Control and Drinking Water Treatment
  • No Progress on Upgrading Water Quality Standards To Reflect Current Science
  • Stream Buffer Program About to Be Weakened
  • Garden State Seafood and Fisheries: Not S0 Fresh
  • Litigation on Highlands Septic Density Standard – Where Is It?
  • What Ever Became of the Source Water Protection Program?

We promise to keep readers and activists informed and will lay out our critique, based on DEP’s own documents.

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Arlington West

May 28th, 2012 No comments

(source: Digby)

I usually try to stay below the radar on military dominated national holidays.

My sense is that I bite my tongue, repress my views, and try not to offend those that truly believe in the US Imperial War Machine.

But, sometimes, the frenzied celebrations of the wingnuts (last night’s PBS celebration is an example) force me to respond. In those cases, I post the Classic anti-war screed, “War Is a Racket” by US Major General Smedley Butler, USMC.

Today was glorious – I rode my bike in the Sourlands and was doing just fine enjoying the day, until I came across the above. I am a supporter of Veteran’s for Peace, so, here’s the story, via Digby:

Each Sunday from sunrise to sunset, a temporary memorial appears next to the world-famous pier at Santa Monica, California. This memorial, known as Arlington West, a project of Veterans For Peace, offers visitors a graceful, visually and emotionally powerful, place for reflection.

Arlington West Mission Statement In accordance with the Veterans For Peace Statement of Purpose, the Arlington West Mission Statement is to remember the fallen and wounded to provide a place to grieve to acknowledge the human cost of war to encourage dialogue among people with varied points of view to educate the public about the needs of those returning from war.To take in the full expanse of crosses, one stands breathless at the enormity of what one sees. Each cross, carefully positioned in the sand with a uniformity appropriate a memorial for this purpose, represents all American military personnel who’ve lost their lives in the US war and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Upon deeper reflection, Arlington West also powerfully represents the path our country has embarked upon.

When one visits the Arlington West Memorial at Santa Monica, one will see mementos placed on some of the crosses, many with fresh cut flowers. Arlington West also represents those who’ve lost their loved one or close friend.

In celebration of their lives, family and close friends of the fallen write their own heartfelt words and dedicate these to their loved one. A gold star is placed by us on dedications made by those who are family. Those dedications made by a friend or those who served along side an individual, will have a silver star placed on their dedication.

Veterans For Peace and dedicated volunteers of Arlington West are careful stewards of these dedications and currently maintain an archive of over 1600 such mementos. Mementos are added to those that may already have an existing dedication made to an individual. We also maintain a log of these dedications, making it easier to see if an individual has ever been visited before.

A Sea of Crosses

As one stands looking out over the sea of crosses, one will notice a swath of red crosses standing among the white ones. As the numbers of American lives lost increases daily, one red cross is representative of 10 military personnel each.

For those who’ve lost their lives within the week past are flag draped coffins with blue crosses positioned in front of each of these. The cross was chosen for its simplicity, not for its religious connotation.

The “wall” of names has been replaced with pillars positioned where the public can review the frequently updated list of fallen American military personnel since day one of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. The list contains the name, age, rank, branch of service, unit assigned to, date and place of the circumstance of death, as well as their hometown and state.Here’s this year’s statement:

This Memorial Day we will once again remember and reflect upon all Americans who’ve lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. To date, the United States has sacrificed (officially acknowledged) 4,486 of its military personnel in its war and occupation of Iraq, not counting those lost to the war and occupation of Afghanistan.

We will also reflect upon and remember all US military personnel who’ve committed suicide, often times due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We reflect upon the inadequate and all too often total absence of help our military personnel are faced with both in and out of military service and of the insistence of the US military to over rely on perscription drugs as a form of treatment.

Rather than address the root cause of the high rate of suicide among military personnel – that being military conditioning to accept the carnage and violence of war as acceptable and healthy to defend the American Way Of Life – the military’s response is to sedate them with psytropic medications and simply re-deploy them into combat.

That there have been thousands (upwards of 1 million or more by some statistics) of innocent people who’ve lost their lives in the violence of the invasion and occupation is without question. As Veterans For Peace, we also acknowledge there are innocent people on the receiving end of our benevolent bombings that did not live to experience the liberty and freedom we brought with them.

As Veterans For Peace and at Arlington West, we acknowledge we are not worth more; they are not worth less. They, too, shall be remembered over this year’s Memorial Day observations. As Leah Bolger, National President of Veterans For Peace, aptly states:

“On this Memorial Day, Veterans For Peace asks you to mourn not only for Americans killed in battle, but also for those killed by Americans in battle. We ask you to be willing to accept the fact that these war deaths did not have to happen—that they are actually in vain. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people have died in American wars of aggression. That is a tragedy and is a truth that must be accepted and for which we must take responsibility.”

Weather permitting, we will set up the memorial beginning on Saturday, May 26th at 8am with a candle light vigil placed at the base of each marker at dusk on Sunday. Take down of the memorial will commence of Monday, May 28th around 3pm. The public is welcome to volunteer for set up and or take down. Please introduce yourself at the information table for guidance on procedures and protocols observed within the memorial and its artifacts.

(Note: Leah Bolger spent 20 years on active duty in the U.S. Navy and retired in 2000 at the rank of Commander. She is currently a full-time peace activist and serves as the National President of Veterans For Peace.)

(Digby) I hear complaints that this memorial is unpatriotic because it is affiliated with a group that opposes these wars. We don’t seem able to discuss these things with any complexity or nuance anymore. But I walk by it frequently on Sundays and I always see a few people sitting quietly by the crosses, perhaps even a family member or a friend of the fallen. And they don’t seem to be upset. In fact, I’ve never known anyone who isn’t moved by the sight of it:

And every time I go by there I’m always struck by how much bigger it’s gotten since the last time:

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