Home > Uncategorized > DEP Agrees To Hold A Public Hearing In Paulsboro On Toxic Air Pollution Permit

DEP Agrees To Hold A Public Hearing In Paulsboro On Toxic Air Pollution Permit

People of Paulsboro Exposed To Multiple Toxic Chemicals In Air, Water, And Land 

DEP, Rutgers and ATSDR have some explaining to do

the view from Paulsboro, NJ High School

the view from Paulsboro, NJ High School

The DEP just agreed to my request to hold a public hearing in Paulsboro, NJ on a draft air pollution permit that authorizes emissions of hazardous air pollutants:

Mr. Wolfe,

Please be advised that the Department posted a Public Notice (attached) on its website to announce a public hearing, per your request.


Eleonora Kats

Environmental Engineer 3

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Air Quality, Energy and Sustainability

Division of Air Quality, Bureau of Stationary Sources

Phone: 609-984-5932

The public hearing will be held on Wednesday, October 30, 2019 at the Independent Oil Workers Union Hall, 911 Billingsport Rd., Gibbstown, Greenwich Township, NJ 08027.

An oil workers union hall is hardly a neutral site to hold a public hearing. I suspect that Senate President Sweeney – who has access to DEP Commissioner McCabe and has provided cover for toxic polluters for decades by manipulating the “jobs versus environment” conflict – had something to do with choosing that location.

I recently submitted comments on a DEP draft air pollution permit to a NuSTAR facility in Paulsboro, NJ. In those comments, I requested that DEP hold a public hearing and raised several significant concerns about the health impacts on the community. I wrote about that here:

The permit would allow continued emissions of “hazardous air pollutants” to a community already over-burdened by numerous industrial sources of toxic chemicals, see:

The DEP draft permit raised important concerns about how DEP analyzes health risks from hazardous air pollutants; how DEP regulates those emissions; and how DEP  involves the community in its risk assessment and permit decisions.

The public hearing comes at a time when the federal Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ASTSDR) and Rutgers are teaming up in Paulsboro to conduct a epidemiological study of the health impacts of the toxic chemicals knows as PFAS: (as reported in a NJ Spotlight story today):

The federal government said Monday it is awarding $1 million each to Rutgers University and six other institutions to study the health effects of PFAS chemicals at seven U.S. sites including Paulsboro and West Deptford in Gloucester County, where high levels of the chemicals have been found.

The study is the second phase of a project led by the Centers for Disease Control and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to look at how public health has been affected by the PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) that were once used in consumer products like Teflon, and are linked to a range of illnesses including immune system problems, high cholesterol, and some cancers.

We urge ATSDR and Rutgers to expand the scope of that study to examine multiple chemicals and multiple exposure pathways – beyond just PFAS contaminated drinking water – given the huge petrochemical complex in the region that emits multiple chemicals to air, land and water that people are exposed to.

That multiple chemical multiple pathway approach is consistent with ATSDR’s recognition that toxic chemicals are emitted by “multiple sites”:

“There is much that is unknown about the health effects of exposures to these chemicals,” said Patrick Breysse, director of the ATSDR and CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health, in a statement. “The multi-site study will advance the scientific evidence on the human health effects of PFAS and provide some answers to communities exposed to the contaminated drinking water.”

The ATSDR and Rutgers health study will not be scientifically valid unless all sources of human exposure to multiple chemicals are considered, not just drinking water and one class of chemicals, PFAS. 

The Spotlight story included a quote from a Rutgers professor that emphasized the need to inform and involve the community in the health study:

“We will work closely with the Paulsboro and West Deptford communities to maximize the benefits of the study for community members,” he said. “There will be a community advisory board and community participation in how we design and implement the study.”

As part of that community involvement, residents must be made aware of the full suite of chemicals that they are exposed to on a daily basis – as well as the regulatory tools that DEP has to reduce those exposures.

Those tools include, among others, the DEP’s risk assessment methods and air pollution control permits.

The community must demand that DEP reconsider the “Technical Manual” under which DEP conducts reviews – Technical Manual 1003 – Guidance on Preparing a Risk Assessment for Air Contaminant Emissions (probably the most important environmental document you never heard of).

Specifically, as I noted in my comments on the NuSTAR draft permit, those DEP methods are flawed and not adequately protective of public health.

So, here are some questions that the community can ask DEP at the upcoming public hearing on the NuSTAR air permit – and the future ATSDR and Rutgers health assessment:

3. According to the draft permit:

“Emission Unit U100/OS – Stack height above ground shall be raised from 20 ft to 35 ft based on the Facility-Wide Air Toxics Risk Assessment dated 3/22/2019, to reduce the benzene cancer and non-cancer short-term risk at the facility fenceline.”

Based on this statement, I ask the following questions and make the following comments:

a) what were the numeric risks to human health quantified by the Facility-Wide Air Toxics Risk Assessment ? Those risks should be disclosed to the community. The draft failed to do that.

b) The point of compliance appears to be the “fence line”. Did the  Facility-Wide Air Toxics Risk Assessment  analyze risks beyond the fence line? If so, why were those risks? If not, why not?

The Department must analyze health risks to the nearby sensitive residential receptors beyond the fenceline. It appears that the draft permit fails to do that.

c) It appears that the risks are driven by benzene. Did the  Facility-Wide Air Toxics Risk Assessment quantify cumulative risks based on multiple hazardous air pollutants? If so, what were the results? If not, why not?

The Department must analyze cumulative risks of multiple hazardous air pollutants.

d) Did the Facility-Wide Air Toxics Risk Assessment assess risks based on actual ambient air quality data? If so, what were ambient conditions and where were they measured?

The Department must assess risks based on actual ambient data that is QA/QC valid and statistically representative of ambient conditions.

e) How was the public informed and allowed to participate in the development and review of the  Facility-Wide Air Toxics Risk Assessment ?

The Department must involve communities in the science and permit decisions that effect their health.

f) Apparently, the only risk reduction measure considered and imposed by the Department was to raise the stack height by 15 feet. This is improper and not protective of public health. On what basis was the new stack height chosen?

Did the Department consider other alternatives, including pollution prevention? Process modifications? State of the art pollution control technology?

The Department is required to consider these more protective alternative risk reduction measures.

g) Did the  Facility-Wide Air Toxics Risk Assessment  consider risks of exposure by sensitive receptors, including infants and pregnant women?

The Department must consider risks and protect the most sensitive receptors.

4. The DEP relied on a Facility-Wide Air Toxics Risk Assessment. That assessment was conducted in accordance with a DEP Technical Manual.

The DEP Technical Manual was not adopted formally as a regulation pursuant to the NJ Administrative Procedures Act.

Given this failure and the highly substantive public health and economic implications of application of the Technical Manual, the DEP draft permit violates the NJ Supreme Court’s decision in Metro-Media. Metromedia, Inc. v. Director, Div. of Taxation 97 N.J. 313 (1984)

Accordingly, the Technical Manual may not be enforced until it is formally promulgated as a regulation.

The draft permit is therefore null and void as it violates a Supreme Court ruling and therefore should not be issued in final form.

DEP, Rutgers and ATSDR have some explaining to do.

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