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Paulsboro NJ Suffers Another Toxic Assault

Will First Hand Experience with Toxic Drinking Water Change Assemblyman Burzichelli?

[Updates below]

NJ Spotlight ran another disturbing story by John Hurdle today about drinking water contamination in Paulsboro, see: ENVIRONMENTALISTS REJECT SOLVAY CLAIM ON SAFETY OF PAULSBORO WATER

Tracy Carluccio of Delaware Riverkeeper has been doing an outstanding job on this situation, so I’ll tread lightly and just make a few contextual observations on the policy and political front on the many related  issues I’ve worked on in both Paulsboro and statewide.

I don’t want to delve into the specifics of the DEP response, alleged “abundance of caution“, and  so called “fact sheet” at this time, other than to note two things:

1) DEP has been dragging their feet for many months in responding to this long known problem;

2) DEP’s response only occurred AFTER the Mayor wrote to Gov. Christie to complain. Given Christie’s scandal woes, the last thing he needs is an environmental scandal and bad press, which I think is the only thing that explains DEP’s public engagement now.

Current Drinking Water Threat Part of Larger Toxic Problem

Recall that Paulsboro, located in the belly of the beast of what NJTV called a “chemical industrial complex“, was where the toxic train derailed (see NJTV: “Shelter in Place Order Still in Effect After Paulsboro Train Derailment“.

Ironically Paulsboro also is in the district of Senate President Sweeney and Assemblyman Burzichelli, both of whom have not be supporters – and  at times antagonists – of strong environmental and public health protections and enforcement of regulatory mandates.

The Paulsboro community has not yet recovered from that train derailment assault, and, aside from the replacement of the bridge that caused the derailment, nothing has changed on the policy and regulatory front to prevent similar train and chemical accidents.

In addition to the threats of toxic train derailments, the people of Paulsboro are assaulted on a daily and continuous basis from the toxic air and water emissions and spills from the “chemical industrial complex” in and around the town, including chemical plants, refineries and pipelines (take a look at the local High School).

So, given the significant pervasive toxic threats to Paulsboro, I will make a few quick points (those interested in the broader scientific and regulatory context should hit the above links for a host of related issues):

1) Perhaps Assemblyman Burzichelli, now that he has had first hand experience with the science and regulation of drinking water standards, will not reintroduce his bills to allow industry to control the Drinking Water Quality Institute and DEP science and regulatory processes.

(see also:  Should the Chemical Industry Have a Role in Writing Your Drinking Water Standards?

[Update – the bill was reintroduced in the 2014-2015 session, see A1884 – wonder if the people of Paulsboro are aware of this? Maybe someone should tell them it would be like letting Solvay-Solexis decide if their water is safe. – end update]

Given DEP’s response to the Paulsboro issue, Burzichelli should also revise his views on regulatory policy and not reintroduce bills to roll back NJ’s protections to weaker federal standards and reconsider his role on the Christie “Red Tape Commission”, which was designed to rollback DEP standards;

[Update – it looks like the federal standards bill has been abandoned, but I found another really bad bill that would strip the DEP Commissioner of power to issue enforcement fines and shift that power to an Administrative Law Judge, effectively gutting enforcement, see A2225 (this is last session’s version of A1532, the reintroduced version is not yet posted. Note that current Assembly Speaker Prieto was co-spomsor of the bill last session, so this bill could move. – end update]

2) DEP spokesman Ragonese has lied about the Drinking Water Quality Institute now for 3 years – when will the Chrisite DEP be held accountable for basically dismantling the DWQI?

DEP Commissioner Martin has blocked the DWQI from meeting since September 2010 – I was at that meting with Tracy Carluccio of DRK – and they have not met since (after 25+ years of regular quarterly meetings).

3) there are scores of similar drinking water contamination issues statewide that are as bad or worse than Paulsboro (e.g. see:

4) Last, given the RCRA “imminent threat” litigation, perhaps former Commissioner Campbell would like to talk to the hundreds people who live in the Dupont plume in Pompton Lakes. They are being poorly represented by their local government and EPA has been handcuffed. see:

The Great Dupont Train-RCRA


The people of Pompton Lakes sure need quality legal representation – and they clearly meet the RCRA ‘imminent and substantial” risk threshold.

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