Home > Uncategorized > NJ Spotlight Prints Chemical Industry Lies On Drinking Water Standards – The Industry Cost Issue Now Expands Into Public Health Protections

NJ Spotlight Prints Chemical Industry Lies On Drinking Water Standards – The Industry Cost Issue Now Expands Into Public Health Protections

More Cheerleading, Despite Several Years Of DEP Delay In Setting Standards

Once Again, Over 500 Unregulated Chemicals In NJ Drinking Water Are Ignored

Once Again, Regulators And Polluting Industry Are Let Off The Hook

Here we go again.

NJ Spotlight published another story today about the NJ Drinking Water Quality Institute (DWQI) and DEP efforts to set drinking water standards for the toxic and/or carcinogenic chemical known as “1,4 – dioxane”.

The story has major flaws and errors – by commission and omission all of which I’ve pointed out numerous times to reporter Jon Hurdle based on his prior reporting. And it seems like NJ Spotlight’s “business friendly” obsession with costs – especially to business and industry – is now creeping into their public health and environmental coverage.

So I must conclude that these repeated errors and omissions are knowing and in bad faith. I assume that this coverage is either designed intentionally to mislead readers, or reflects cowardice and the corrupt journalistic practice of bending the narrative and facts to fit the propaganda of powerful chemical industry interests. Or both.

I feel very strongly that the people deserve accurate information about what the environmental laws actually say; what all the relevant facts and science are; and whether government officials are doing all they can to protect our health or whether they are caving in to powerful industries or trading off public health protections for economic growth.

For context, we wrote about the chemical 1,4 – dioxane 5 years ago and discussed the issues it raised for setting drinking water standards (known as “Maximum Contaminant Limits” or MCL’s) for toxic chemicals and carcinogens, see:

I’ve also written about the issue of “unregulated contaminants” many times, so that too is no secret to DEP, environmental groups, Mr. Hurdle and his editors at NJ Spotlight, (see links below).

The NJ Spotlight story today is false and misleading for the following reasons:

1) The DWQI And DEP May Not Consider Costs In Setting Safe Drinking Water Standards

The 1983 amendments to the NJ Safe Drinking Water Act  are very clear about the specific factors that the Drinking Water Quality Institute (DWQI) and the DEP shall consider as the basis for setting protective drinking water standards (MCL’s) for carcinogens and other toxic chemicals. (see:

Those 3 factors are prescribed in this legislative standard: “within the limits of medical scientific and technological feasibility”.

Those 3 factors do not authorize DEP to consider the costs of compliance.

The Legislature was explicit in the 1983 amendments in making NJ’s law more stringent than the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, which does allow considerations of “economic and technological feasibility” (the same standard adopted in NJ’s original 1977 State SDWA).

The NJ law also has a more stringent health standard, compared to the federal SDWA. NJ MCL’s must protect against individual excess lifetime cancer risks of 1 in a million.

For non-cancer health impacts, NJ’s law is also more specific and stringent than the federal law. The DWQI and NJ DEP may consider the following effects in setting MCL’s, for chemicals that may:

cause death, disease, behavioral abnormalities, cancer, genetic mutations, physiological malfunction (including malfunctions in reproduction), or physical deformity

DEP knows this. The members of the DWQI know this.

But apparently NJ environmental groups and NJ media do not know this and as a result the people of NJ don’t know this.

What you don’t know can kill you.

2) The Chemical Industry Is Lying

While NJ Spotlight repeatedly fails to inform readers of what the NJ law actually says, they print chemical industry lies.

This is a disgrace.

They printed this quote from Dennis Hart of the NJ Chemistry Council, followed by a boldface sub-headline, with no qualification or challenge, as if it were a fact: (my emphasis):

On Thursday, the Chemistry Council of New Jersey accused the panel of not providing the DEP with the full scientific information that it needs to decide whether to move forward with the recommended health limit.

The trade group also said the water quality institute had not fully considered the EPA’s conclusions that the chemical posed no unreasonable risk to consumers.

“The Chemistry Council of New Jersey has long advocated for greater transparency and public input with respect to DWQI’s activities,” its executive director, Dennis Hart, said in a statement. “Failure to do so is not in the best interest of our residents.”

Chemistry council predicts higher water bills

In a detailed response to the draft recommendation last year, the chemistry council predicted that New Jersey residents would be faced with higher water bills because of the costs that utilities will incur for installing technology to comply with the health limit if it is finally implemented.

That is lousy journalism, at best.

Dennis Hart is a former longtime DEP Manger. He once oversaw NJ’s drinking water program, so he knows what the law and the science are. Therefore, let me be clear: he is lying on behalf of the toxic chemical polluters who pay his salary. 

The chemical industry does not care about any increases in your water bills, they are worried about the HUGE multi- billion dollar liability they will suffer when regulatory standards are established for the chemicals they have manufactured and dumped everywhere: the air, land and water – that are poisoning our bodies, wildlife, and ecosystems.

The chemical industry doesn’t give a rats ass about “greater transparency and public input”.

The chemical industry does its lobbying in the dark, as we just learned from the statements of Exxon’s own lobbyist.

The public wants its health protected from chemical assault. The last thing the chemical industry wants is more public awareness of those chemical assaults and public involvement in government setting standards to protect them from those chemical assaults.

Yet, NJ Spotlight fails to provide accurate information about the science and the law (i.e. as set out above and below) that would contextualize and expose these chemical industry lies.

It does not print specific rebuttals calling out those lies.

It just prints a meek “he said she said” vague and defensive reply by the head of the DWQI.

That is, at best, a cowardly form of journalism.

3) Over 500 Chemicals Found In NJ Drinking Water Remain Unregulated

As I’ve written many times, NJ DEP knows that there are over 500 chemicals present in NJ drinking water. 

For the implications of this, keep in mind that the infamous childhood cancer cluster in Toms River NJ was caused by unregulated chemicals in drinking water.

Scientists also have documented serious ecological effects, like dual sexed fish.

Most recently, upon release of DEP’s Statewide Water Quality Report, I wrote: (DEP’s Report also was ignored by NJ Spotlight):

5. DEP Is Ignoring The Impacts Of Toxic Unregulated Chemicals, Like Pharmaceuticals and Endocrine Disruptors

Unfortunately, not everyone knows that DEP knows that there are over 500 unregulated chemicals present in NJ waters and that those chemicals have unknown toxic effects on ecosystems, fisheries, and human health. …

Two major categories of those unregulated chemicals include pharmaceuticals and endocrine disruptors.

For the implications of endocrine disruptors, see:

For the implications of pharmaceuticals, see:

Consider these important facts:

1. The DEP has admitted that there is no monitoring to understand how widespread the chemicals are or what concentrations they are in your tap water.

2. The DEP has admitted that there is no science and that they do not know what the public health and ecological effects of these chemicals are.

3. The DEP also has said that there are methods to treat and remove the chemicals from drinking water and that these treatment methods, such as granular activated carbon, are technologically available (i.e. not confined to a research lab, limited to bench studies or experimental pilot projects, but readily available).

4. Based on: a) the scientific uncertainty about health and ecological effects, b) the widespread public exposure, c) the availability of treatment to remove 99.99% of these chemicals from our drinking water, and d) the risks and delays of the current practice of setting individual MCL’s for each of these 500+ chemicals, the DEP recommended that they pursue a more effective and protective “treatment based approach”. For details, see:

Once again, all this is completely ignored, while NJ Spotlight tells its readers that your water is safe and DEP and the DWQI are doing just a swell job!

4) The DWQI And DEP Could Be Doing Far More – They Are Receiving False Praise

The DWQI and the DEP have abandoned the prior DEP recommendation to pursue a more effective and protective “treatment based approach”.

They are ignoring unknown and potentially significant risks of unregulated chemicals.

They have not moved forward on over a dozen prior recommended MCLs.

They move at a glacial pace, taking, in the case of 1,4 dioxane, almost a decade to act.

This performance does not warrant the kind of praise that is consistently heaped on them by NJ Spotlight, unfortunately including some environmental groups.

They can and must do much better.

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