Archive for the ‘The working life’ Category

On a Night Like This

July 10th, 2008 7 comments
[Apologies – This was published originally by the Star Ledger at my “NJ Voices” column. The SL took down all the photos, but I was able to recover the text.]
Dupont Logo from Deepwater facility –
Better living through chemistry?

On a night like this
So glad you came around,
Hold on to me so tight
And heat up some coffee grounds.
We got much to talk about
And much to reminisce,
It sure is right
On a night like this.

“`Bob Dylan
[With 6 Updates below ]
At the invitation of Councilman Ed Meakem, I trekked up to Pompton Lakes last night to talk about toxic pollution from the Dupont site and to explain why the NJ cleanup laws and lame DEP lame oversight justify a critical and skeptical stance. I’m certain that my night was not the kind of night Mr. Dylan had in mind, but it sure was interesting and well worth sharing what I found, saw, and heard – on a night like this!
Meakem called me after he read this post, where I praised his leadership: Hammer meet nail
I wrote that after learing about the most recent toxic pollution at the Dupont site Pompton Lakes council wants independent test for toxic vapors

I arrived early for the 6:30 public hearing to explore the Dupont site. The Dupont site manger, a Mr. Dave Epps, refused my request for a tour and even blocked me from taking any photo’s at the gate – I was so impressed by Dupont’s bold “safety” claim, I just had to snap off a photo though! (you see, Dupont has polluted virtually the entire town a with a toxic soup of lead, mercury and organics. As a result, Dupont already has paid more than $38 million to settle a lawsuit by 427 residents for damages caused by mercury and lead poisoning of children. See:

Dupont Pompton Lakes site.

I promptly left the site as ordered by Mr. Epps, but the Wakenhut rent a cops then followed me around the working class neighborhood that surrounds the plant – I managed to shake them and was able to bushwack onto the grounds, but got driven away by a torrential rainstorm:

homes surround Dupont toxic site

Soaked to the bone, after the deluge passed I explored the perimeter of the Dupont site and managed to come across a soccer field and the DEP “Cannonball Trail” trailhead. Since most folks prefer to live, work and have their kids play as far away from a toxic waste site as possible, lets just say I was surprised by what I found –
This soccer field is named Dupont Field. It is completely surrounded by groundwater monitoring wells and a “pump and treat” system. I was told that the highly polluted groundwater is pumped out of the ground, treated, and then recharged back into the ground ON the soccer field. So kids play on a hazardous wast treatment unit! Only in NJ!

Dupont Field

NJ has hundreds of miles of outstanding hiking trails – along with that toxic legacy. As the nation’s most densely populated state, why not co-locate? This is the trailhead for the DEP “Cannonball Trail” – yes, those are monitoring wells –

The “Cannonball Trail” trailhead.

Just 10 feet to the left of this point, is a real field of dreams – so many monitoring wells and what look like vapor ducts I couldn’t count them:

The Dupont site was fenced with the typical signs – which got me to thinking about law enforcement and property rights: First, the signs provide no warning that the land behind the fence is a toxic waste site or that wildlife, fish, soil, and water are contaminated;

Second, and more important, just who is trespassing here? Dupont dumped toxic chemicals on the land and in the water. Those chemicals have migrated off site and poison surrounding homes, residents, drinking water wells, Wanaque River, Acid Brook, wildlife, fish, and Pompton Lake. Those chemicals and Dupont have trespassed!


Blocked by fences and hounded by rent a cops, all I managed to see of the Dupont site was this out building (that could be another monitoring well in foreground and some kind of air emissions stack, but I have no info on what goes on in that building):

I finally ended up at the public hearing – I was the first invited guest asked to speak!
Here’s what I warned the Borough Council about: NEW JERSEY TO PRIVATIZE POLLUTION REGULATION TO SAVE MONEY — Outsourcing Clean-Ups Is Recipe for More Toxic Disasters, Legislature Told
I was not sure if this woman lives in the vapor intrusion zone, or whether her kids play on the soccer field. But it did seem like she was just a little concerned.

This is Steve Madonna (no relation to the more famous and attractive namesakes). Steve was the NJ Environmental Prosecutor in the Florio Administration – was that is, until his Office was abolished by another “Open for Business” Governor, Christine Todd Whitman. Steve does toxic torts and represents residents in Pompton Lakes – Dupont has already paid out millions for damages associated with lead and mercury poisoning of kids.

Homeward bound, I stopped at “The Office” in Morristown for dinner and a few pints – all on a night like this.

Update #6 – The Dupont Pompton Lakes toxic contamination story isn’t going away – check out the latest:
State will check rate of cancer in plume
Thursday, March 12, 2009
POMPTON LAKES — Mayor Katie Cole has requested the results of a state health study to see if cancer clusters exist among residents living above a plume of contamination in the borough’s northeastern section.
The state Department of Health and Senior Services says it will respond to her by early April with the results.
Cole said she asked for the study of the entire plume — some 437 homes — but especially for Barbara Drive and Orchard Street, because residents “kept coming up at meetings to say there were numerous cases of cancer at those locations.”

“I needed the experts to investigate to see if those statements were true,” she said. “And if they are, we would have to move to the next step, to follow up with whatever is needed — perhaps surveys or health screenings for people.”
Testing last May by DuPont, whose former explosives factory is responsible for the contamination, revealed elevated levels of chemicals or “intrusive vapors” in the groundwater under as many as 400 buildings in the plume. The pollution is from the degreasers tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE), which were used as cleaners by the factory. It operated in town between 1902 and 1994.
DuPont has offered to pay to install mitigation systems — basement venting — and to be involved in the design of filtering systems to be put in the affected homes. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection are monitoring the testing and installation of the systems. And recently, the borough hired an environmental firm to watch DuPont’s cleanup and remediation efforts.
The EPA, DEP and the borough all have advised residents to install the systems in their homes. Some residents have refused, saying they fear depreciation of their homes and have health concerns for their families.
Cole hopes the study will calm those fears.
But Marilyn Riley, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Senior Services, said the study’s goal is to “see if there are any unusual trends, any larger number of cancers.”
“Basically, we are looking at data in the state’s Cancer Registry,” she said. The registry gets its information from doctors, hospitals, clinics, radiologists, laboratories and dentists, all of whom are required to report cancer diagnoses treated in the state since 1978.
“We would have to study the location of the cancer, the type of cancer,” Riley said. “You verify what cases are, where they are.”
The process to identify clusters is indeed complicated, said Michael Greenberg, associate dean of the faculty of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. Greenberg has worked on many studies throughout the state looking for cancer clusters.
“It’s like detective work,” he said. “What you are looking for is an excess of that particular disease of a particular area at that particular time.”

Copyright © North Jersey Media Group
[Update #5 – 3/11/09 – Holy cow! Where has DEP been all these years? Looks like my original July 10, 2008 post was right all along – Over 90% of homes tested were poisoned by toxic vapors from Dupont. Read this:
Act against vapors, residents told
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
POMPTON LAKES — The most recent tests of toxic vapors seeping through soil under basements in the town’s northeastern section confirm that homeowners there should take advantage of technology being offered free to remove those vapors, state and federal environmental officials said Monday.
Those tests, of soil under 37 homes and apartment buildings scattered above the plume of contamination in the groundwater, found vapors above acceptable levels in more than nine of 10 cases, indicating that vapors were likely seeping into basements.

Link to Full story:
[Update #1: Boro to hire DuPont watchdog
[Update #2: read Dupont’s proposed vapor intrusion cleanup plan:
[Update #3 Chemical fears bring community to prominent law firm
[Update #4: Citizens unite over DuPont

South Jersey Scenes

July 7th, 2008 1 comment
Categories: Family & kids, The working life Tags:

Big Ocean – Bigger Woman – True Patriot

July 4th, 2008 2 comments

Fourth of July is the day for lots of symbolism and patriotic gestures – parades, flag waving, fireworks, and the like – but true love of country involves much deeper things.

Liberty Bell.

Liberty and freedom require active struggle and sacrifice – and not just armed struggle and the endless series of wars that tend to get emphasized during our celebrations. No, struggle of a much more challenging and rewarding kind – struggle for freedom and justice. It was Fredrick Douglas who famously said:
“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

W. E.B. Du Bois – black american scholar, educator, activist, and patriot.

Freedom requires struggle for truth.

Tom Paine – true teller, radical and patriot.

Struggle for courage to speak the truth – the ultimate in patriotism – illustrated by USMC General Smedley Butler’s most famous quote::

General Smedley D. Butler

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”
Struggle for the land.
The history and values of this country can not be separated from the land – the natural world that literally is this country and without which this country would never have been formed and could not exist. Our history and culture literally flow from the land, rivers, wildlife, forests, and oceans that sustain us.
A patriot loves the land. From the Jeffersonian yeoman farmer, to the Boston Harbor, to Thoreau’s Walden Pond, to Huck Finn’s Mighty Mississippi, to Teddy Roosevelt’s National Parks, FDR’s Tennessee Valley and CCC, right on down to today’s “tree huggers” – sacrifice and action in preservation of the natural world is deeply american and highly patriotic.
WIth those thoughts in mind – and reflecting the passion and commitment and in the tradition of the above historic patriots I love – Margo Pellegrino is a modern day true patriot.

Who is Margo Pellegrino?
Margo is an awesome woman and patriot.
Last year, to raise awareness of the crisis of our oceans, Margo paddled a kayak from Miami to Maine, a 2,000 mile 11 week saga. Along the way she inspired and educated thousands. Our oceans are dying from the combined effects of pollution, habitat destruction, and overfishing. Pollution on the land all drains to the ocean. See:

This year, Margo is paddling up the Jersey coast, across NJ, and down the Delaware River to Washington DC to again raise awareness of the need to take responsibility and act to protect our increasingly threatened precious ocean resources. Along the way, she is holding events to educate concerned citizens and solicit the support of members of Congress to back the “Oceans 21″ legislation.
Margo paddled though some of the most toxic waters in the world. Hundreds of contaminated sites, industrial discharges, and sewage treatment plants pollute the Raritan River. As a result, DEP has issued fish and shell fish consumption bans and public health warnings due to toxic levels of dioxin, PCB, and mercury.

Raritan Bay –
Crabs and fish from Raritan and Newark Bay have some of the highest toxic dioxin, PCB, and mercury levels in the world. Our waterways are dying.

Crabs and fish from Raritan and Newark Bay have some of the highest toxic levels in the world.

Middlesex County sewage treatment plant discharges millions of gallons of day of wastewater to the Raritan River and Bay – including untreated toxic industrial chemicals and pharmaceuticals which enter, bioaccumulate up the food chain, harm the ecosystem, and poison fish and shellfish making them unsafe for human consumption.

Margo is gathering “messages in a bottle” from citizens to send to Congress to pass this critically important legislation, which would create the equivalent of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act for the ocean.
Yesterday, Margo stopped in Princeton along the D&R Canal – she ran late due to excessive vegetation in the water than slower her down. This plant growth is caused by to much nutrient rich polluted runoff to the canal. Over development, failing septic systems, and excessive chemical lawn fertilizers runoff into and are killing our waterways.
To read about Margo’s most recent exploits up the Raritan River and down the Delaware and Raritan Canal, check out today’s excellent Trenton Times story:
A wave of awareness
Paddling to protect our oceans
Support Margo’s efforts – follow her progress on Margo’s blog:

US flag – before the Empire.

Corzine Missed First Global Warming Deadline

July 3rd, 2008 5 comments

DEP Response: “It depends on what the definition of “shall” is”

PSEG coal plant, Duck Island – on Delaware River just south of Trenton

Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan Due This Week Delayed Until Fall or Later
Trenton — The Corzine Administration has failed to meet its first major statutory milestone in implementing the emission reduction goals of the highly touted Global Warming Response Act, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). A June 30th legal deadline for producing a plan identifying the legislative and regulatory “measures necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions” will not be met until September at the earliest.
The Global Warming Response Act was signed by Gov. Jon Corzine last July, on the eve of a concert at the Meadowlands attended by former Vice President Al Gore. The Act mandates a 20% reduction in current greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2020 and an 80% reduction by 2050. Environmentalists have praised the goals of the New Jersey law as among the strongest in the nation.

Governor Corzine speaks at Yale in April at Governor’s Coference on Global Warming

Since then, Gov. Corzine has participated in a series of high profile global warming events, including a trip to Portugal to sign an international declaration and, this past April, an appearance at Yale University to sign the Governors’ Declaration on Climate Change partnership.
At a meeting this week with New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson, we were informed that the June 30th deadline was not close to being met and that the new estimated goal for circulating a draft greenhouse gas control plan for public review is mid-to-late August. A minimum 30 day comment period would push delivery of a plan to the Legislature back until September or early October.

“The concern is that when it comes to global warming the Corzine administration may be all hat and no cattle,” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe. “At a time when scientists are calling for quicker and deeper emissions reductions, the sense of urgency among our state officials has vanished.”

Salem nuclear plant – Corzine energy plan is rumored to call for a controversial new nuclear plant.

There may be further delays, however, due to other actions by the Corzine administration. DEP may not be in a position to implement any ambitious greenhouse gas control plans since the Governor’s budget slashes agency funding, imposes a hiring freeze, and relies on an early retirement program that could cost DEP more than 300 positions (out of a 3,200 total workforce). These cuts, which are far deeper than those imposed during the Whitman administration, will hamstring detailed planning for, let alone implementing, any bold new initiatives at DEP.

PSEG Bergen plant – a contovesial deal to export all power produced by this plant to NY City was recently killed.

At the same time, Gov. Corzine is poised to sign “The Permit Extension Act” which would exempt thousands of projects from any new energy conservation, energy efficiency, building codes, or other requirements to install solar heating or other renewable energy that may ultimately be required by the Global Warming Response Act. PEER has asked the Governor to veto the bill.
“Since there will not likely be coherent federal action for at least two years, people who are counting on the states to take effective steps on global warming now should be disappointed in New Jersey,” Wolfe added. “Stumbling this badly coming out of the blocks does not bode well for how we will run the race.”
Read the Global Warming Response Act (GWRA)
Look at Gov. Corzine’s GWRA signing statement
View the Governor’s Yale conference statement
Read the PEER veto request on the Permit Extension Act
[Closing note to the spin wizards in the DEP Press Office who called the June 30 deadline a “target” – here’s what the GWRA mandates – Just what don’t you understand about the word “shall? “How long will reporters keep misreporting your spin as fact?]:
“6. a. The department, …shall evaluate policies and measures that will enable the State to achieve the 2020 limit, shall make specific recommendations on how to achieve the emission reduction targets, including measures that reduce emissions in all sectors of the economy including transportation,housing, and consumer products, and shall evaluate the economic benefits and costs of implementing these recommendations. The department shall coordinate its evaluation of greenhouse gas emission reduction policies and measures with the work of the Energy Master Plan Committee established pursuant to section 12 of P.L.1977, c.146 (C.52:27F-14).
b. No later than June 30, 2008, the department, and any other State agencies, as appropriate, shall prepare a report recommending the measures necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to achieve the 2020 limit. The report shall include specific recommendations for legislative and regulatory action that will be necessary to achieve the 2020 limit. The report shall be transmitted to the Governor, to the State Treasurer, to the Legislature pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1991, c.164 (C.52:14-19.1) and to the members of the Senate Environment Committee and the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee.”

New Jersey PEER is a state chapter of a national alliance of state and federal agency resource professionals working to ensure environmental ethics and government accountability

A cruel hoax – on many levels

July 1st, 2008 23 comments

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it, and then misapplying the wrong remedies.
~~~ Groucho Marx

[Update: 7/20/08 – “Am I the only one who finds it strange that our government so often adopts a so-called solution that has absolutely nothing to do with the problem it is supposed to address?
Al Gore 7/18/08

“The regulatory relief provisions of the bill are totally unrelated to the causes of the economic problems the bill purports to address.”
Bill Wolfe 6/30/08

It’s no secret that thousands of NJ working families are struggling just to make ends meet. The recent housing finance crisis – caused by Wall Street fraud and greed – is forcing thousands of families into mortgage foreclosure and lost hopes and dreams. Thousands of small business – particularly the small home builders – are being driven towards bankruptcy. Credit crunch and high debt levels are causing record rates of bankruptcy filings.

Lou Greenwald (D/Camden) prime sponsor and champion of the “Permit Extension Act”.

So what do our political leaders in Trenton do to respond?
They grandstand and cynically blame environmental protections and enact a meaningless “solution”, the “Permit Extension Act”.

That law, while rolling back environmental protections, does absolutely nothing to address the underlying causes of serious economic problems.
Worse, few realize (because the issue has not been reported in the press coverage) that the Permit Extension bill treats urban NJ residents like second class citizens and will severely hamper NJ’s ability to achieve Governor Corzine’s highly touted global warming emission reduction goals.

Below is my “Dear Jon” letter to Corzine asking for a VETO of this fraud – reach out to the Governor and let him know how you feel – 609-292-6000.

June 30, 2008
The Honorable Jon S. Corzine
State House
Trenton, New Jersey 08625
Via hand carry
Re: request to Veto the “Permit Extension Act” A2867[2R]/S1919[2R]

Dear Governor Corzine:
On behalf of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), I am writing to request that you issue a Veto of “The Permit Extension Act” which passed both houses on June 23, 2008. PEER is a national support group for professionals in environmental agencies that seek enforcement of environmental laws and ethics.
The premises and provisions of the bill are fatally flawed. These flaws cannot be corrected by the series of narrowing amendments negotiated by Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson, or the issuance of a Conditional Veto on your part.
The bill provides no economic stimulus whatsoever, or other valid economic relief for the national economic recession and collapse of the housing market, the purported justifications for the legislation. As such, the bill represents a cruel hoax upon New Jersey residents suffering real economic hardship.
The regulatory relief provisions of the bill are totally unrelated to the causes of the economic problems the bill purports to address. The bill would apply to an unknown universe of thousands of DEP permits and municipal approvals. It is simply reckless to enact legislation whose impacts have not been even crudely analyzed.
Implementation of the bill would undermine environmental protection by exempting prior approvals from changes in environmental standards and community preferences reflected in municipal land use planning and zoning. This is a fatal blow to core principles of environmental and land use law. Principles known as “time of decision” and “technology forcing” seek to assure that technology and markets adapt to meet changing environmental laws and standards that have evolved to meet changing conditions and new scientific knowledge, and that economic activities reflect those changes.
The bill would frustrate the ability of NJ to implement and meet the emission reduction goals of your signal accomplishment, The Global Warming Response Act. For example, thousands of projects would be exempt from any new energy conservation, energy efficiency, building codes, or other requirements to install renewable energy. This alone is sufficient policy grounds to kill this bill.
The amendments that carve out the Highlands, Pinelands, and “environmentally sensitive areas” under the State Plan would sacrifice urban areas and result in de jure and de facto differential and unequal protection of urban New Jersey. This would violate fundamental principles of environmental justice. As succinctly stated by South Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance Co-Chair Roy Jones:
“Separate and unequal … dates back to slavery” (Asbury Park Press, June 26, 2008).
We strongly urge you to Veto this bill and uphold your Constitutional obligation as Governor of all people of New Jersey, urban, suburban and rural, and not provide favors to special interests.
Bill Wolfe, Director