Home > Uncategorized > Consultant With Horrible Record Put in Charge of Toxic Risk Communication At Paulsboro Train Wreck

Consultant With Horrible Record Put in Charge of Toxic Risk Communication At Paulsboro Train Wreck

How is it possible to hire a company with an atrocious record and put them in charge of risk communications to the public?

According to a South Jersey Times story today, Senator Sweeney blasted the Coast Guard for their communications with the public:

If they grade themselves internally, they have to give themselves an ‘F’,” Sweeney said. “It’s not the press saying it. It’s not me saying it. It’s everyone saying the same thing.”

To improve communications, the State has established a new website:

The flow of information did seem to turn a corner Friday when www.PaulsboroResponse.com was launched by the joint command center. The site features an evacuation zone listing, press releases, and phone numbers for health, community assistance and media hotlines.

But not so fast.

The website identifies “The Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health” (CTEH) as responsible for running the “Health Hotline” and providing information to the public on risks and toxicology. The words “Center” and “Health” makes them sound like some independent, academic type of outfit that works in the pubic interest.

CTEH’s website describes themselves as consultants to governments and private sector clients, who include chemical companies and the American Petroluem Institute. CTEH also touts their expertise in “regulatory disputes”. That’s code for “hired corporate gun”.

Sounds troubling to me right off the bat – potential conflicts of interest galore.

Why would the state outsource something as critical as chemical safety and risk communication? Particularly when DEP and the Department of Health have some of the best experts in the country?

So, I did a quick Google of CTEH and was shocked and appalled by what I immediately found. Louisville Kentucky, Channel 11 TV news reported:

Company that reportedly gave OK to torch has controversial past

(posted on November 5, 2012)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) — A company with a controversial past was involved in the clean-up effort after a train derailment last week which eventually prompted an evacuation.

The I-Team has learned that CTEH, a national company involved in several recent high-profile environmental incidents, may now be part of the focus of an investigation into what went wrong after last week’s train derailment near the Jefferson-Hardin County line.

“The information we received earlier as this incident unfolded was incorrect,” said Jefferson County EMA Director Doug Hamilton last Thursday, hours after a tanker car carrying volatile chemicals caught fire.

“They were given some information that the air was clear at that time,” said P & L Railroad Vice President Gerald Gupton during a briefing last week.

Chemical readings taken at the scene Wednesday led contractors to use acetylene torches to attempt to cut up a tanker carrying butadiene.

The spark caused a flash fire, which sent three workers to the hospital and prompted a 1.2 mile evacuation, as flames crept dangerously close to another tanker carrying hydrogen fluoride, one of the most dangerous chemicals used in industry.

“It was impinging upon the HF car,” Hamilton said of the burning tanker.

An explosion involving an HF tanker would have been devastating for the small town of West Point and much of Pleasure Ridge Park.

When asked who gave the go-ahead for using torches last week, Gupton said: “Some air monitoring individuals with CTEH.” CTEH stands for Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health.

The company professes to be a national leader in disaster response, but WHAS11 has discovered the company also has been cited in a long line of controversial cases, including as an expert in the 2008 coal ash spill in Tennessee, in which an EPA audit discovered the company failed to meet quality assurance procedures when it gave the TVA a clean bill of health after the spill.

The company was also cited for using bad sampling techniques to evaluate contamination at a refinery following Hurricane Katrina.

CTEH even represented a company that imported hazardous drywall from China and found no issues with the product, even though the EPA later concluded it was toxic.

More recently, the company was hired by BP in the wake of the Gulf oil spill to evaluate clean-up workers’ health exposures. At the time, two members of Congress sent a letter to BP’s chairman urging him not to use CTEH because of its “history of being hired by companies accused of harming public health.”

[see also: Residents near train derailment file lawsuit, where CTEH was named as a defendant.]

How is it possible to hire a company with a record like that and put them in charge of risk communications to the public?

Shame on DEP for letting that happen and ignoring their own scientific experts!

DEP shares logo with Conrail - a responsible party in the accident

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  1. Bill Neil
    December 8th, 2012 at 15:00 | #1

    The protection, and indeed, the very definition of what might be the public interest, has been privatized Bill. Where else does the polarization and logic of the last 30 years lead us? Texas, here we come.

  2. December 8th, 2012 at 17:20 | #2

    @Bill Neil

    Yes, a very subtle but effective form of privatization going on here.

    Outsource the definition of “safe” – eliminates all need for those pesky government bureaucrats and inconvenient “job killing red tape” regulations.

    These same guys write the playbook and talking points for BP and for API – why not NJDEP?

  1. July 31st, 2014 at 10:53 | #1
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