Home > Uncategorized > Head Of NJ Drinking Water Quality Institute Spouts Drivel To Divert Attention From Flaws In Chemical Regulation

Head Of NJ Drinking Water Quality Institute Spouts Drivel To Divert Attention From Flaws In Chemical Regulation

EJ Law Shines Light On Cumulative Impacts, Risk Assessment, Flawed DEP Regulations And Unregulated Chemicals 

I wrote a set up story for yesterday’s NJ Drinking Water Quality Institute meeting to try to get a focus on major flaws in current regulations of toxic chemicals, literally thousands of which are unregulated, see:

The DWQI themselves opened Pandora’s Box by requesting public comment, so I took advantage of the opportunity.

That post was based on and linked to a 2010 DEP Report that was written by DEP staff to the DWQI. I was seeking to hold DEP and the DWQI accountable to their own science and recommendations.

For context and implications, keep in mind that the Tom’s River, NJ childhood cancer cluster was caused by an unregulated chemical (according to NJ Dept. of Health): (emphasis mine)

A previously unknown chemical contaminant related to the Reich Farm site – styrene-acrylonitrile trimer — was identified in the Parkway well field (one of the supply’s eight well fields), resulting in the closure of two wells and an expanded water treatment system. …

The [epidemiological] study found that prenatal exposure to two environmental factors in the past were associated with increased risk of leukemia in female children. These exposures were: 1) access to drinking water from the Parkway well field after the time that the well field was most likely to be contaminated, and 2) air pollutant emissions from the Ciba-Geigy chemical manufacturing plant.

Prior to that post, I’d written numerous posts and emailed NJ Spotlight reporter Jon Hurdle several times to provide specific information about federal and state laws and regulations that apply to the incomplete and misleading series of stories he’s written about the family of chemical known as PFAS, or “forever chemicals”, see:

Today, NJ Spotlight reported on that DWQI meeting, and they not only repeated the errors and omissions of prior stories, but added a whole new level of misdirection, by quoting the head of the DWQI, Dr. Keith Cooper of Rutgers.

Dr. Cooper – who surely knows better and obviously was trying to close the Pandora’s Box he opened – spouted this embarrassing gibberish: (NJ Spotlight)

“If you can instill within the industries themselves that if they are required to maintain their chemical footprint within their own industry, within their controlled environment, then you will have their responsibility for maintaining that,” Cooper said during a public meeting of the panel of scientists and water company executives that advises the state Department of Environmental Protection on safe levels of certain chemicals in drinking water.

“But unfortunately, historically, we have not put that requirement,” he said, offering his personal opinion. “We have allowed the chemicals to escape off of sites either through gas or the utilization of wastewater treatment plants, and I think that in the future, we have to start looking at putting the onus back on industry.”

Dr. Cooper surely knows that US EPA and NJ DEP have a comprehensive suite of largely unenforced laws, regulations and permit programs that specifically were designed for and apply to the problems he so in-artfully characterized.

Spouting drivel diverts attention from enforcing and reforming these laws and lets EPA and DEP regulators off the hook.

(and Cooper’s “chemical footprint” is a dangerous slogan that could easily be used by corporate lobbyists to support a privatized form of management, such as the Chemical Industry’s “Responsible Care” Program (NJ already privatized its toxic site cleanup program, so this is not beyond the pale) – or used by anti-regulatory zealots to suggest a retrograde common law “trespass” and “public nuisance” alternative to government regulation.)

Failure by the media and environmental groups to specify the problems and the solutions available under aggressive enforcement of current laws lets regulators and polluters off the hook.

I initially though that the failure to focus with specificity on current flawed regulations and lack of enforcement was due to incompetence.

But I directly provided accurate and specific information to NJ Spotlight reporter Jon Hurdle multiple times and provided it indirectly to my former NJ environmental colleagues (who I know read this blog), so now I think the problems are not competence but corruption.

Dr. Cooper’s gibberish reported by Spotlight set me off on a twitter storm, with links to my prior posts that document the issues:

  • This story is scientific & regulatory gibberish. A stunning evasion of current regulatory framework, programs, & policies, see this and THIS: Warning: This Map Could Make You Sick
  • Flaws in regulating “forever chemicals” & toxic alternatives are due to federal Toxic Substances Control Act, see this
  • DEP permits air releases & “leaks” of toxic chemicals, see this
  • DEP issued permits to allow the discharge of toxic chemicals directly to rivers & streams that provide drinking water, see this
  • DEP issues permits for discharge of toxic chemical laced sewage to treatment plants, see this
  • DEP has a Technical Manual & permit requirements on chemical Risk Assessment that are seriously flawed – They could be strengthened to address cumulative impacts, unregulated chemicals, & environmental justice, see this
  • DEP has authority under NJ State Pollution Prevention Act to mandate “toxic use reduction” & use of less toxic alternatives. DEP has authority to prevent “leaks” of toxic chemicals under NJ TCPA: DEP has failed to implement & enforce this authority, see this
  • DEP has inventoried sources of pollution threats to every drinking water source and system in NJ, but done absolutely nothing with this critical information. Look up your drinking water’s DEP Source Water Assessment:
  • Volatile Organic Compounds
  • Disinfection Byproduct Precursors
  • Inorganic Constituents
  • Nitrate
  • Pesticides

I then fired off this email to NJ Spotlight reporter Jon Hurdle – let’s hope he thinks about it before writing his next misleading diversion.

Jon – Dr. Cooper is literally speaking gibberish. That serves to divert attention from the actual laws, regulations, and scientific tools DWQI and DEP have to address the problems he attempts to note (and also does so in a very poor way, gibberish). Risk assessment, cumulative risk, the precautionary principle, unregulated chemicals, standards, technical manuals, Guidance documents, ambient monitoring, fence line monitoring, emissions monitoring, community health monitoring, et al are all scientific and regulatory terms of art. He surely knows all this – or should.

DWQI was involved in a “Treatment Based” approach to setting requirements in lieu of chemical specific MCL’s for unregulated chemicals written by DEP staff to the DWQI. Dr. Cooper knows all about this. I’ve written about this multiple times so the material is out there.

DEP has a comprehensive suit of NJ State laws to regulate all emissions, leaks and discharges of all toxic chemicals to air, and and water. DEP has detailed regulations and permit requirements that apply, including risk assessment. I’ve written about them in detail. Let me know if you want a list. Dr. Cooper surely knows this.

I’ve already told you about the chemical “pre-market review” under federal Toxic Substances Control Act that applies to the problems you note with “forever” chemicals PFAS.

DEP has comprehensive authority under federal TSCA and the NJ Pollution Prevention Act, NJ Right To Know Act, NJ Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act, NJ Spill Act, NJ Ari Pollution Control Act and the federal Toxic Substances Control that provide authority for DEP to mandate “toxic use reduction” (the primary goal of the Pollution Prevention Act) and the use of less toxic alternative  substances (like the alternatives to “forever” PFAS).

DEP has never used this authority.

NJ laws also establish a liability scheme for holding polluters accountable for all “leaks” and releases of toxic chemicals, to air, water, and land.

DEP has a permit program that allows discharge of toxic chemicals to rivers and streams that provide drinking water. (called NJPDES)

DEP has a permit program that allows industries to discharge toxic chemical laden wastewater to sewage treatment plants, when then discharge unregulated toxic chemicals to rivers and streams used for drinking water. (called TWA).

Dr. Cooper must know all this.

Why not write a story that holds DEP accountable for all this?

I do.


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