Home > Uncategorized > Wolfenotes Applauds Christie’s Acting Attorney General For Protecting The Safety of Our Drinking Water

Wolfenotes Applauds Christie’s Acting Attorney General For Protecting The Safety of Our Drinking Water

Open Letter to AG Offers Lengthy List of Targets for Investigation & Prosecution

The screaming headline of the Star Ledger’s above the fold page one story today – head shot/mug shots and all – jolted me from my rainy Saturday morning coffee complacency and sent me scrambling to my keyboard just now to pound out this open letter of praise and congratulations to Gov. Christie’s Acting Attorney General John Hoffman see:

All I can say, after almost 30 years of work as a “professional watchdog” and whistleblower is  – Wow!

In one fell swoop, our Acting AG has done the following: (and follow each discrete element of the prosecution, because we will apply them later on  in this post):

 1) broken up a “conspiracy“; 2) to mislead the public; 3) about the “safety of our drinking water” and 4) advocated for “professional environmental watchdogs” in government agencies to expose the “cover up” of  “significant contamination issues”; 5) intended to “avoid building an expensive water purification plant” to “remove the chemical from the water”.

The Star Ledger’s cracker jack reporting tells us:

“Mowell should have used his expertise to act as an environmental watchdog, protecting the water supply and alerting the DEP and the public of problems,” Elie Honig, director of the state Division of Criminal Justice, said in a statement. “However, he chose to use his knowledge and skills to cover up a significant contamination issue.” […]

Investigators alleged Mowell and Mansmann took the actions to avoid building an expensive water purification plant that would remove the chemical from the water.

Although the Attorney General’s Office found the coverup of “a significant contamination issue” regarding a known human carcinogen, the DEP downplayed the health risks:

Exposure to the chemical, used for dry cleaning and other purposes, over a prolonged period of time is a potential cancer risk, according to the federal health department. But state Department of Environmental Protection officials said their own testing showed residents were not at risk and the water was safe.

What? Residents not at risk? Really?

That is very strange, because a prior June 14, 2014 Star Ledger story reported:

The DEP’s latest water investigation showed that several of the 18 artesian wells in eastern Morris and western Essex counties still show high levels of volatile organic compounds, inorganics, radon and disinfection by-products

How can DEP sampling documentation of “high levels of volatile organic compounds, inorganics, radon and disinfection by-products” in June be called ‘safe” in July?

Perhaps the Star Ledger could resolve the apparent contradiction in a followup story and maybe AG needs to look into DEP for the same abuses he prosecuted this case on.

Coincidentally, further suggesting a look at DEP, yesterday the Bergen Record reported very similar drinking water contamination in  Montclair, which also was called “safe” by DEP:

Despite serious-sounding warnings on state and federal websites about the potential harm of PCE exposure, Montclair residents shouldn’t be concerned, according to Karen Fell, assistant director of water supply operations at the DEP. […]

It’s not any kind of violation,” Fell assured The Times.

I am so tremendously pleased that the criminal law enforcement resources of the Christie Administration  are looking out for our drinking water, because the policy, regulatory, and administrative enforcement sides of the administration responsible for protecting our drinking water are in complete abdication mode.

So, to congratulate and make our new “watchdog” Acting Attorney General aware of multiple investigatory targets to followup on, I fired off the below open letter:

Dear Acting Attorney General Hoffman:

As an environmental professional and watchdog , most recently of the Christie Administration, with a longtime focus on DEP, I am writing to thank you for prosecuting the East Orange drinking water conspiracy and to suggest other targets for investigation.

I write in light of the standards you upheld in that prosecution, as reported in today’s Star Ledger story, particularly a conspiracy to mislead the public about the safety of our drinking water and your advocacy for professional environmental watchdogs in government agencies to expose the cover up of  significant contamination issues intended to avoid building an expensive water purification plant to remove the chemical from the water.


With those standards in mind, may I suggest that you focus your investigatory resources on the following similar potentially wrongful conduct:

  • I) Public deception about risks

I call your attention to the serious environmental, public health, and public safety risks of:

  • the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant, revealed by the case of Dennis Zannoni, NJ DEP’s former Chief Nuclear Engineer, and the conspiracy of harassment and retaliation for disclosure of those risks  (see this).
  • toxic heavy metal chromium, revealed by the case of Zoe Kelman, former NJ DEP Chemical Engineer, and the conspiracy of harassment and retaliation for disclosure of those risks (see this and this).
  • hundreds of chemicals known by DEP to be present in NJ’s drinking water, and the failure of government officials to disclose to the public and act on those risks (see this).
  • the concerted effort by DEP Commissioner Bob Martin to block the NJ Drinking Water Quality Institute from meeting for almost 4 years, from recommending drinking water maximum contaminant levels” (MCL’s) for dozens of chemicals, and the failure by DEP to adopt the recommendations of the DWQI scientists to adopt MCL’s (see this and this)
  • misleading the public about and failure to adopt an MCL for perchlorate (see this and this and this)
  • inadequate regulation and regulatory oversight of railroad safety, particular toxic train derailments (see this)
  • inadequate regulation and regulatory oversight of facilities that manufacture or store “extraordinarily hazardous substances” (see this)
  • inadequate regulation of emissions of greenhouse gases, which will lead to catastrophic climate change (see this)
  • the suppression of science documenting the impending ecological collapse of Barnegat Bay (see this)
  • the role of the Dupont corporation in the privatization of DEP science and burgeoning conflicts of interest at DEP (see this and this)
  • the Fenimore landfill scheme (see this)
  • the Pinelands pipeline  (see this)
  • the failure to prepare for major coastal storms (see this)
  • the role of private consultants in weakening of vapor intrusion standards (see this)
  • the failure to update flood maps to fully disclose and regulate known flood risks (see this)
  • the role of private consultants in providing false and misleading information to residence regarding evacuation after the Paulsboro toxic train derailment (see this)
  • the coverup of cumulative risks of hazardous air pollutants in Paterson (see this)
  • the failure to seek listing of 35 toxic sites that qualify for Superfund based on risk (see this)
  • the role of Dupont and DEP failure to regulate and remediate toxic mercury in Pompton Lakes (see this)
  • corporate conflicts of interest on the DEP management team (see this)
  • pay to play abuses in DEP industry regulatory stakeholder groups (see this)
  • the DEP’s plan to “protect” water supply intakes on NJ rivers by weakening water quality standards (see this)
  • Gov. Christie’s political appointments to the Highlands Council (see this)
  • II)  Elevating costs above public health protection

Your prosecution accused the drinking water officials of seeking  “to avoid building an expensive water purification plant that would remove the chemical from the water.”

As you know, consideration of costs in setting drinking water standards pursuant to NJ’s Safe Drinking Water Act is not legally authorized.

Yet the practice is widespread and even documented in official State policy.

Specifically, I urge your investigation of DEP and the Drinking Water Quality Institute to begin with Governor Christie’s Executive Order #2, which, among other things, directs DEP to provide “regulatory relief”, hold off the record meetings with regulated industry, and to conduct “cost benefit analysis”.

  • III) Role of professional watchdogs in government agencies

We applaud your efforts to promote professionalism and whistle blowing.

See the above point #I regarding specific examples of DEP whistleblowers and retaliation by DEP managers.

As a former whistleblower myself, I can personally testify to institutional corruption at DEP with respect to suppression of science, failure to disclose risk, and retaliation against professional whistleblowers who do.

If you interview your own Deputy Attorney General George Schlosser, he can confirm that as a witness to this egregious abuse, using NJ State Police

I urge your investigation to examine DEP Commissioner Martin’s transformation and “burning platform” management initiatives for DEP professionals to abandon what you refer to as a professional “watchdog role” and provide “customer service” (see this).

  • IV) Operating practices that deceptively increase risks

The water utility involved in your prosecution “blended” various source water supply wells.

The practice of “blending” is a common and statewide abuse to circumvent regulatory MCL’s that undermines public health.

DEP looks the other way or actually encourages this abusive practice.

In closing, I look forward to your timely investigation of the foregoing and am able to provide additional information upon request.


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