Archive for June, 2014

Extent of South Jersey PFC Contaminated Drinking Water Expands – Residential Wells Poisoned

June 30th, 2014 No comments

DEP Downplays Health Risks

DEP Slow Walking Development of Drinking Water MCL Standards for PFC’s

Polluter Refuses to Disclose Well Testing Data


Ragonese accused the DRN of trying to “scare the heck out of people” by warning of the dangers of PFCs, in contrast to the DEP which he said is working systematically to find a solution to the issue. ~~~ NJ Spotlight, 6/30/14

[Update: 7/21/14 – Angelo Fichera of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote another good story today – funny, I told Angelo exactly the same thing about the relationship between epidemiology and risk assessment and the appropriate reliance on animal studies in risk assessment,. Larry Hajna must have talked to DEP scientists before he spoke to press. Nice Job Larry! (and I mean that), see:

Bill Wolfe, director of NJ Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said the institute’s maximum contaminant levels would serve a larger purpose, requiring routine tests by water purveyors throughout the state. “What DEP is proposing is really only going to apply to Solvay,” he said of the groundwater criterion.
end update

NJ Spotlight has a very good story today on the latest developments in the South Jersey drinking water PFC situation, read the whole thing here:

The Spotlight story shows why the Drinking Water Quality Institute (DWQI) and DEP must expedite proposal of drinking water “MCL’s” for these compounds.

But, at a meeting of the Water Supply Advisory Council last week, when this issue was briefed, Fred Sickels, head of the DEP Drinking Water programs, stated that the DWQI Treatment subcommittee had not met yet.

In contrast, Sickels noted that the Health effects subcommittee had already met.

The failure of the Treatment Subcommittee to have met belies DEP Press Office’s emphasis on treatment – Spotlight reports:

Larry Ragonese, a spokesman for the DEP, said the levels of PFNA detected “could be troubling” but said filtration technologies are available to remove the chemical from water supplies. “It’s a very solvable situation,” he said.

So, despite the urgency of this new data and all the hoopla back in April about DEP Commissioner Martin directing the DWQI to develop MCLs for these compounds, 2 months later, it sure seems like DEP is slow walking the MCL development process.

Recall that back in April, the DWQI ended an almost 4 year hiatus.  The focus of the meeting was on DEP Commissioner Martin’s charge to develop drinking water standards (MCL’s) for PFCs detected in South Jersey water supplies, see:

I wrote a followup post  about that meeting in this post, in which I emphasized there need to accelerate MCLs and install treatment for PFC’s and hundreds of other chemicals detected in NJ’s water supplies.

Once adopted as MCL regulatory standards, public water supply systems would be required to test for and treat them.

Additionally, the Private Well Testing Act would be triggered, and testing of individual wells would occur when property is sold.

This would allow the public and homeowners with wells to know if their water is contaminated or not and take precautions.

Spotlight reports that the company, Solvay Solexus, refuses to disclose the results of their residential well testing data:

Company spokesman David Klucsik declined to specify the levels of perfluornonanoic acid (PFNA), one of the PFC family of chemicals, detected in the seven wells.

Nor would he say if any of them exceeded the 0.02 parts per billion (ppb) concentration proposed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection as the upper limit for safe consumption.

Solvay should not be in charge of this sampling study – they should be required to fund it, but the sampling work should be conducted by the DEP and all data publicly disclosed.

DEP needs to take the lead in this effort and expedite – not slow walk – the adoption of MCL’s and treatment requirements.

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Front Porch Flashback: “Late for the Sky”

June 29th, 2014 No comments



Sitting on the front porch just now, just after sunset, and had a flashback .

Listen to the full album “Late for the Sky” (Jackson Brown, 1974)

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DEP Can’t Stop Lying About Fenimore Landfill Issues

June 27th, 2014 No comments

Drake’s Brook is Legally Listed by DEP as “Impaired”

Will NJ reporters hold DEP accountable?

Source: NJDEP: Clean Water Act Section  "303(d) Impaired Waters List" (2012)

Source: NJDEP: Clean Water Act Section “303(d) Impaired Waters List” (2012)

In a June 25, 2014 article in the prestigious national technical publication “Engineering News Record” (ENR), the DEP press office dismissed PEER criticisms about denying a public records request for a DEP water quality study on Drake’s Brook, a stream polluted by the Fenimore landfill, see the ENR article:

Specifically, PEER made this claim:

… what neither the residents of Roxbury nor SEP knew was that state DEP biological monitoring data showed that the two streams running around the landfill were impaired. This Stressor Indicator report is based on sampling studies from 2009-2010 showing the deleterious impacts on aquatic life in the Drakes Brook watershed from Fenimore.

DEP press office denied that PEER claim and told reporters from ENR this big whopper. The ENR reported:

At the center of the controversy is a New Jersey Dept. of Environmental Protection report that has not yet been made public. Critics allege that NJDEP has delayed its release because the document may show that materials from the landfill impaired water quality in local streams. The agency contends that when the report comes out next month, it will not show any significant and lasting damage to the watershed from the landfill. 


Wolfe says biological monitoring data shows that two streams running around the landfill were impaired. Had that information been made public, the Fenimore never would have received a re-opening permit from the DEP, the site would not have been declared a brownfield site, and the solar project would not have gone forward, Wolfe alleges. The report that includes the biological monitoring data from 2010 “is not a draft—it is being withheld because its findings are deeply embarrassing to the Christie people,” he says.

Ragonese denies that the draft report shows anything abnormal, and adds that the final report—part of a routine watershed analysis—will be released in coming weeks. Also this summer, NJDEP plans to put out a request for proposals to cap the site, and begin work on closing the landfill before the end of the year.

DEP is flat out lying here.

It is very easy, based on published DEP documents – even without the specific “Drake’s Brook Stressor Indicator Report” that DEP is withholding – to demonstrate that DEP is lying when they claim that: 1) Drake’s Brook is not impaired, 2) that the Fenimore landfill is not a contributor to the impairment, and 3) that the Stressor study was part of “routine watershed monitoring”.

According to DEP’s own 2012 Clean Water Act Section 303(d) Impaired Waters” list, Drakes Brook is listed as “impaired”  for 19.5 miles above Eyland Avenue, Roxbury.

The excerpt from the DEP 2012 “Section 303(d) “Impaired Waters List” with respect to Drakes Brook is provided at the top of this post to make it even easier to see the DEP lies.

More detailed “assessment unit” specific information on Drake’s Brook impairment is provided in this DEP document, which shows “non attainment” (impairment) for aquatic life – trout designated uses.

Here is a prior DEP 2008 “Ambient Biological Monitoring Report” that documents Drake’s Brook impairment and explains exactly what the “Stressor Indicator Report” is designed to measure:

Source: NJDEP Ambient Biological Monitoring Report (2008)

Source: NJDEP Ambient Biological Monitoring Report (2008)

DEP’s subsequent “Stressor Indicator Strategy” shows Fenimore landfill and an impaired Drakes Brook. (in that document, DEP noted and photographed the same multiple landfill “leachate seepsthat I did).

Even further evidence is that DEP proposed to remove (“delist”) a 21 mile stretch of Drake’s Brook below Eyland Avenue from the prior 2010 “impaired water list (see DEP’s  2012 “Delisting document“) (so that stretch was impaired as well)

Contrary to what DEP press office states, Impairment is “abnormal”.

Contrary to what the DEP press office states, a “Stressor Indicator Report” is not a “routine watershed analysis”.

The purpose of such a study is to determine the causes and sources of impairment. It is a regulatory exercise to target regulatory compliance issues, not some routine water quality monitoring. According to DEP:

NJDEP also conducts targeted physical, chemical and biological water monitoring for needs such as further evaluation of waters previously listed as impaired on NJ’s Impaired Waterbodies List, TMDL development/implementation, and in response to environmental spills.

See DEP’s own “New Jersey’s Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Strategy:  2005 – 2014” for a detailed discussion of those issues.

Exposing DEP lies is like shooting fish in a barrel.

We will be prepared to discuss these issues when DEP finally releases the Drake’s Brook Report.

At this point, we are concerned that DEP will edit the original Report or spin the findings like they have in the ENR comments.

We will be watching this closely and will keep you posted.

Let’s hope that the journalists covering this issue are equally diligent and skeptically scrutinize DEP claims in light of evidence – including the evidence above.

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EPA Obfuscates and Evades Responsibility for Controversial Dupont Vapor Intrusion Decision

June 27th, 2014 No comments


As I’ve written, the Dupont corporation has petitioned US EPA Region 2 to amend their RCRA Corrective Action cleanup permit at the Pompton Lakes site to raise the vapor intrusion screening levels.

The Dupont request is pending EPA decision. If Dupont were smart, they would withdraw the request and apologize and move on.

[Similarly, at the outset, at a minimum, EPA should have publicly expressed reservations about weakening any protections and then very specifically said that any changes requested by Dupont would require formal public participation requirements under EPA RCRA regulations. That is the absolute minimum. Why does EPA consistently mishandle issues and defer to Dupont? Why do they consistently walk on eggshells when it comes to Dupont? Are they afraid of doing the right thing? Are they just following orders? What explains EPA’s reluctance to speak clearly publicly?]

If Dupont does not withdraw the request, EPA will have to make a hugely controversial decision – EPA can’t duck. It’s a “which side are you on” “the whole world is watching” kind of moment. Something’s gotta give.

[Pete Seeger has the iconic version – but I like the angry edge in Billy Bragg, a voice that is cruelly ironic at a time when the NJ DEP is run by a Thatcherite -and in Washington, we’re still waiting for that Great Leap Forward.]

That Dupont request would weaken health protections for the people of Pompton Lakes and is strongly opposed by the community.

The issue has gotten focused media coverage, see:

As reported, angry residents have written to US EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck to oppose the Dupont request.

EPA has replied. Sort of.

I was just sent Enck’s reply, sent to residents via a June 26 email from a low level EPA R2 staffer. Is Regional Administrator Enck ducking the decision?

Frankly, I was disgusted with the EPA reply, particularly this “THE WIZARD OF OZ HAS SPOKEN!” edict:

“The EPA and NJDEP are currently reviewing DuPont’s draft 2014 vapor intrusion work plan.  Once EPA and NJDEP complete their review, any changes to DuPont’s vapor intrusion program will be communicated to the community by EPA, NJDEP and DuPont.”

Notice how EPA fails to accurately state the controlling law governing “Dupont’s draft 2014 vapor intrusion work plan”.

Note how EPA points the bureaucratic finger and seeks to share responsibility with NJ DEP, as if this were a Committee decision and no one is in charge.

But more importantly, notice the arrogance in how “any changes” “will be communicated to the community” – what?

Will Dupont send a courier pigeon?

Here is how I advised residents to respond to this arrogant bureaucratic obfuscation:

Write a letter and issue a press release that says the following:
1) the Dupont site is being cleaned up under a federal law called RCRA, specifically the Corrective Action program;
2) The RCRA CA program is the responsibility of US EPA under federal law;
3) the State of NJ and DEP has NOT received delegation of the RCRA CA program from US EPA;
4) thus far, the Dupont cleanup has been implemented under a RCRA CA permit issued by US EPA;
5) any substantive changes to the Dupont RCRA CA permit require public notice, opportunity for public comment, and a public hearing, under federal law and EPA regulations;
6) A change to the vapor intrusion screening levels in the Dupont RCRA CA permit would be highly substantive and trigger formal permit modification procedures under federal law and EPA regulations;
7) In the event that EPA decides to amend the Dupont RCRA permit to change the VI screening levels, that change must be done formally via permit modification procedures, which include a public notice, opportunity for public comment, and a public hearing;
8) We are very concerned that EPA is obfuscating these issues by creating the appearance that the NJ DEP changes to NJ’s State program are somehow binding on EPA
9) We are very concerned that EPA is misleading the public by not advising the public about the legal requirements under RCRA outlined above.
(EPA’s letter calls the Dupont VI “screening levels” “comparison levels” – EPA cant even use the correct terminology? Does EPA think we are stupid? EPA condescends, misleads, and insults us.);
10) Obfuscation and misleading statements are totally unacceptable and we demand better.
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Rutgers Climate Report Gives Christie Policy a Pass

June 27th, 2014 No comments

NJ Spotlight Reports that, from the spectacular grounds of the Duke Estate, the “NJ Climate Adaptation Alliance”, a handful of the usual suspects funded from the same elite and out of touch private Foundations – just released a major climate Report, see:

Read the whole thing for yourself –  I browsed it and rapidly came to the following conclusion, which I posted in a comment on the Spotlight piece – I don’t think an in depth read will change this assessment:

Investigative Journalist IF Stone once said that to understand a Government document, read it from back to front because they hide all the good stuff at the end.

Well, if you go to literally the final page of the Dodge/NJ Future/Rutgers/Duke Report, you will find the only – albeit weak-kneed – criticism of the Christie Administration and specific regulatory policies.

And that criticism is couched as coming from Stakeholders, not the authors of the Report themselves.

They similarly hide the new funding recommendations behind a Blue Ribbon panel.

And the regulatory recommendations lack specificity and are disengaged from current regulatory policy and practice.

What a profile in courage.

Broad, bland, vague, process oriented Reports  (let’s form a new Committee stacked with our friends!) that lack focused accountability on policy is the LAST thing we need right now.

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