Media Whitewash of NJ’s Toxic Chromium Coverup

February 23rd, 2015 No comments

Courageous Whistleblower’s Warnings Validated, But Ignored – Again

Petulant ego of reporters and editors trumps public health and journalistic integrity

“Thanks to the courage and integrity of a DEP specialist speaking out, it is clear that New Jersey has abdicated its responsibility to protect the public from toxic sites,” stated Bill Wolfe, a former long-time DEP analyst. “Unfortunately, federal intervention will be necessary to make sure that this job is done right.”  ~~~

NJ Facing Chromium Emergency – 1 in 10 Cancer Risks – State Scientist Reveals DEP Coverup; Demand for Federal Intervention (Nov. 5, 2005)

Last week, there were deeply moving must read high profile national stories about whistleblowers that caught my eye.

I had planned to write about those issues soon, from personal experience and the perspective of perhaps the most important analysis of the meaning of whistleblowing, from the truly profound book:  Whistleblowers: Broken Lives and Organizational Power

But today’s Bergen Record story by Scott Fallon on the Garfield chromium disaster forces my hand and narrows my focus.

I have repeatedly criticized Fallon’s coverage of the Garfield chromium site, so it’s understandable that he would never give me a call or report on PEER’s work.

But Fallon’s petulance and petty ego have caused him to whitewash the story – again and again – as he did today with this totally misleading allusion to the site’s troubled history:

The pollution dates to 1983, when more than 3 tons of hexavalent chromium spilled into the ground from a tank at E.C. Electroplating, a small family-run business. Although only 30 percent of the metal solution had been recovered, the state Department of Environmental Protection allowed E.C. Electroplating’s contractors to suspend their cleanup in 1985 — a move DEP officials acknowledge was a mistake.

Note to Fallon: DEP didn’t make a one time, site specific, “mistake” on chromium in Garfield 30 years ago.

DEP scientists were aware of and had warned about Garfield – and scores of other chromium sites – continuously for YEARS.

Their warnings were ignored by DEP managers and suppressed for political reasons.

That history is scandalous. [*here’s one example, from the NY Times (10/2/06)

The chromium issue caused unusually public recriminations within the environmental agency. After a group convened to reconsider the cleanup standards recommended leaving them unchanged, one member, Zoe Kelman, a chemical engineer, wrote a 50-page dissent.

Several other agency scientists, speaking on condition of anonymity because they feared retribution, said that the Department of Environmental Protection had bent to political pressure to speed cleanups.

Ms. Kelman accused the agency of disregarding tests at one capped site, in Kearny, that found hexavalent chromium levels thousands of times higher than the agency plan had expected.

She also noted that while New Jersey sets the allowable level of hexavalent chromium in soil at 240 parts per million, Maryland’s standard is 30 parts per million, and Oregon’s is 23.

“I always feel the public believes we err on the side of protection, and it’s obvious now that we don’t,” Ms. Kelman said.

But that’s not all – here’s Propublica:

A 2004 investigation by the Newark Star-Ledger found that Honeywell Inc., PPG Industries and Maxus Energy Corporation, the companies responsible for the chromium pollution, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbying and millions of dollars on their own scientific studies to convince the state of New Jersey that its chromium standard was too stringent.

According to the investigation, when the lobbying effort began, New Jersey considered chromium levels in soil at 10 parts per million to be safe; by the end of the companies’ lobbying campaign the chromium standard was raised to 6,100 parts per million: one of the loosest standards in the country, allowing the companies to save millions on cleanup costs.

Despite what Mr. Fallon writes – and he must know this  history – DEP’s failure is not limited to Garfield and it persisted for decades. It is unconscionable for Fallon to ignore all this, and basically give DEP credit for acknowledging their error.

After years of being ignored, marginalized, or told to just sit down and shut up, finally, one DEP employee had the courage and integrity to blow the whistle, almost 10 years ago now.

And Zoe Kelman’s warnings were directly relevant to the Garfield chromium site.

One key Kelman warning that is directly relevant to Garfield was this – risks from toxic chromium migration into building basements:

The 1998 criteria do not protect groundwater and surface water from chromium contamination. The leaching of chromium from soils into groundwater is a natural resource injury in and of itself. But it can also create a public health hazard; groundwater is a vector for the transport of hexavalent chromium and the contamination of additional soils and structures. Leachate evaporation at interfaces results in localized accumulations of highly enriched solid-phase hexavalent chromium on soil, building or other surfaces. The final report of the workgroup ignores the issue altogether; it proposes no soil standard to protect against leaching to groundwater.

Had PEER and Ms. Kelman’s warnings been taken seriously and given media attention by outlets like the Bergen Record, then perhaps unsafe exposures to chromium would have been averted 10 years sooner.

Maybe if EPA were paying attention, they would have taken the PEER November 5, 2005 letter petition requesting federal intervention seriously. We demanded:

  • V) Request for USEPA intervention

Based upon documented unacceptable risks and a longstanding and continuing pattern of failure by the NJDEP, we request that EPA:

  • assume federal jurisdiction and control of the remedial process at certain chromium sites pursuant to CERCLA, RCRA, and the Clean Water Act;
  • conduct necessary and appropriate CERCLA emergency removal actions to control chromium exposures;
  • notify and warn the public of these unacceptable risks and provide assistance in community response to chromium remediation;
  • refer the matter to EPA and Department of Justice for appropriate criminal and civil enforcement action;
  • refer NJDEP’s handling of the chromium matter to the EPA Inspector General for investigation;
  • request that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry conduct a community health study and impact assessment of chromium contamination; and
  • conduct site assessments and initiate the NPL listing process for certain chromium sites.

Amazingly, we have been vindicated. Virtually each and every one of these specific demands ultimately happened, but far too late.

After ignoring our 2005 warnings, EPA, Scott Fallon, and the rest of the NJ media had an opportunity to redeem themselves when I rehashed all this back in 2010, with this repeat warning post:

But now, they prefer to prance around and portray themselves as some kind of aggressive investigative watchdogs, writing crap like Fallon’s piece today, which whitewashed the fact that they  - just like DEP –  ignored huge health risks to residents and abdicated their responsibility for many years.

And in the meantime, heroic whistleblower’s careers have been destroyed as State officials retaliated for their honest and accurate warnings to the public.

And those state officials have not been held accountable – in a court of law or the court of public opinion.

And many other frustrated professionals, disgusted by political intervention in DEP science and regulatory decisions, are dissuaded from blowing the whistle, when they see the brave work of one of their colleagues ignored and their career destroyed.

Believe me, when the media and EPA ignore whistleblowers, that is exactly what the powerful corporations and political hacks that run DEP want.

And in the meantime, people are needlessly exposed to risks and the quality of their health and the environment are compromised.

This, dear readers, is the price of petulance and ego of a third rate reporter and his editors.

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Christie’s Controversial Pinelands Commission Nominee is Back Before Judiciary Committee

February 23rd, 2015 No comments

Bob Barr to Appear for the Third Time 

Brendan Byrne (Princeton, 3/3/13)

Former Governor Brendan Byrne – champion of the Pinelands, signed the Pinelands Protection Act in 1979  (Princeton, 3/3/13)

The Pinelands deserve a Commissioner who would be a champion and advocate for the Pinelands, not just show up and vote as he’s told. ~~~ Carleton Montgomery, Executive Director,  Pinelands Preservation Alliance

NJ Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Scutari posted Governor Christie’s nominee to the Pinelands Commission for consideration tomorrow (Tuesday, 2/23/15, at noon, hearing room 4, Legislative Annex).

It is Bob Barr’s third round of Committee consideration.

Last time he was posted for consideration, on Jan. 26, in an embarrassing moment, Chairman Scutari abruptly announced the he would not be considered.

Barr’s champion, Senator Van Drew, tried to provide an excuse that it was related to the weather, but a Committee member told me that they lacked the votes to approve him

We’ve been over this ground several times now in prior posts, so will just bullet our reasons for opposing Mr. Barr’s nomination:

1) Lack of Leadership, qualifications, or interest in the Pinelands or preservation issues

We agree with Carleton Montgomery’s quote above – the Pinelands deserve leadership, and Bob Barr is not a leader on Pinelands or regional land use planning or conservation issues. I’ve seen nothing is his life experience or education that even suggests an interest in the Pinelands.

2) Pending South Jersey Gas pipeline – balance on the Commission

Gov. Christie supports the  South Jersey Gas Co. (SJG) pipeline. Barr is Christie’s nominee.

SJG legally appealed the Commission’s decision not to approve the MOA. That case currently is pending before the Appellate Division. The Court could remand the case back to the Commission for further consideration at any time.

Given the prior 7-7 deadlock, Barr’s appointment could determine the fate of the pipeline should the court remand or if SJG renegotiates a new MOA or pursues a waiver of strict compliance. The Senate and the Gov. should not be intervening in this matter until the case is resolved with finality.

Therefore, there is no way to avoid the obvious appearance that Barr is being installed to implement Gov. Christie’s policy.

This appearance compromises the independence of the Senate’s advise and consent role.

3) Close relationship with Senator Van Drew, who is championing Commission reconsideration of pipeline vote

Senator Van Drew strongly suppers the SJG pipeline, and is leading the charge to force the Commission to reconsider its prior vote not to approve it. Van Drew has publicly stated that Senate President Sweeney supports his work.

Barr has close political ties to Van Drew. creating as similar appearance problem.

Additionally, there is an appearance that Senator Sweeney could be twisting arms to support Barr, at best a very weak candidate, even without the SJG pipeline baggage.

This appearance compromises the Chairman and the Committee’s independence and casts a negative  light on Senate Democrats, who have long supported strong Pinelands protections.

4) Role as Treasurer of Cape May County Democratic Party – appearance of lack of independence and bias

Barr served as Treasurer to the Cape May County Democratic party.

In that capacity, according to ELEC records I have reviewed, he received funds and processed significant contributions, including biennial contributions of $37,000 from the IBEW, a union that strongly supports the pipeline and repowering of the BL England plant.

The fact that Barr is aware of the IBEW support of the pipeline and that he obviously is aware of their significant financial support for Cape May County Democrats, creates and appearance that he would not be independent and objective in his role as a Commissioner.

Former Governor Jim Florio. Governor Florio (who served in Congress from 1975 – 1990) shared his national perspective, noting that the Carter Administration and many in Congress – just like today – were concerned about the Nixon Administration’s energy policy, impacts of off shore drilling, and plans to run pipelines across the Pines to refineries along the Delaware River. This prompted Congress in 1978 to create the nation’s first National Reserve in the Pinelands. (Princeton, 3/3/13)

Former Governor Jim Florio. Governor Florio (who served in Congress from 1975 – 1990) shared his national perspective, noting that the Carter Administration and many in Congress – just like today – were concerned about the Nixon Administration’s energy policy, impacts of off shore drilling, and plans to run pipelines across the Pines to refineries along the Delaware River. This prompted Congress in 1978 to create the nation’s first National Reserve in the Pinelands. (Princeton, 3/3/13)

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NY Times Exposes Sham Climate Denial Science, Conflicts of Interest, and Misconduct

February 22nd, 2015 No comments

Corporate Cash Buys Denialist “Science”

Christie DEP Science Advisory Board Has Gross Corporate Conflicts of Interest

Report on Regulation of Chemicals Written By Dupont and United Water Corporate Hacks

We do a lot of work on issues of scientific integrity and how corporations “manufacture doubt” to undermine public health and environmental regulation, so we are obviously pleased that the New York Times put those issues in play today.

The New York Times published a story today on the corruption of science by industry money, see: Deeper Ties to Corporate Cash for Doubtful Climate Researcher

For years, politicians wanting to block legislation on climate change have bolstered their arguments by pointing to the work of a handful of scientists who claim that greenhouse gases pose little risk to humanity.

One of the names they invoke most often is Wei-Hock Soon, known as Willie, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who claims that variations in the sun’s energy can largely explain recent global warming. He has often appeared on conservative news programs, testified before Congress and in state capitals, and starred at conferences of people who deny the risks of global warming.

But newly released documents show the extent to which Dr. Soon’s work has been tied to funding he received from corporate interests.

He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.

That is blatant conflict of interest and gross scientific misconduct. Dr. Soon is sure to be soon gone from the Smithsonian.

The egregious nature of the conflict of interest documented by the NY Times reminds me of equally blatant conflicts right here in NJ that we have tried to expose, see:  NEW JERSEY HANDS DRINKING WATER SAFEGUARDS TO DUPONT

We could just have easily headlined that Report “NEW JERSEY HANDS DRINKING WATER SAFEGUARDS OFF TO UNITED WATER”.

Those efforts have been ignored by the NJ press corps, who seem to have more important things to write about, like the latest Christie scandal.

So, in light of the bright light on the issue created by the Gray Lady’s story today, perhaps an intrepid NJ reporter will understand the nature of the issue and feel emboldened by the paper of record to cover the issue right here in their backyard.

Let me lay it out for readers and intrepid journalists alike:

  • The DEP Science Advisory Board recommendation

There are hundreds of synthetic chemicals in our air and water that poison people and ecosystems that are not regulated. They are euphemistically referred to as “contaminants of emerging concern” by regulators.

In fact, the US Geological Survey and NJ DEP have found over 500 of those chemicals in NJ water supplies, see: FILTER THE CHEMICAL SOUP IN NEW JERSEY’S DRINKING WATER

DEP Commissioner Martin asked his hand picked Science Advisory Board to provide recommendations on whether and how to regulate these chemicals. Here’s how the SAB framed Commissioner Martin’s “charge topic” in their Final Report;


Numerous chemicals, some of which may be a potential risk to human or environmental health, are used every day in New Jersey (NJ) for industrial, commercial and household purposes. Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CEC) are those that present a concern for both hazard and exposure. A number of these chemicals may find their way into the State’s wastewater treatment facilities, receiving waters, aquifers and drinking water treatment facilities and other chemicals may be released to air or deposited in soils. CEC have raised concern around the world, as once released, these products pose a potential threat to biota and the environment. To address this issue specifically in New Jersey, the NJDEP Science Advisory Board (SAB) formed the CEC work group which was asked to investigate this issue.

With that set of issues in mind, here is a key recommendation from the DEP SAB Final Report on Contaminants of Emerging Concern:

It is recommended that the hazard assessment be conducted using a platform called METIS (Metanomics Information System) developed by DuPont. METIS is a chemical informatics platform that provides a screening level view of potential environmental fate and effects, human health concerns, and societal perception concerns.

Did you catch that?

The DEP SAB recommended a chemical hazard assessment method developed by Dupont, a chemical manufacturer that would be subject to the regulations of those chemicals.

But it gets worse.

The SAB Final Report was conveyed to DEP Commissioner Martin from a Rutgers University Professor, on Rutgers letterhead.

The Rutgers transmittal letter emphasized the role of sub-committee Chair John Dyksen, who just so happens to be a corporate official with United Water and of John Gannon, who just so happens to be a corporate official with Dupont.

Dear Commissioner Martin,

It is my pleasure to convey to you a report on Contaminants of Emerging Concern that has been approved by the Science Advisory Board. This report was written by a sub- committee of the Board, chaired by John Dyksen, with significant input from John Gannon. It was my great pleasure to be a part of this subcommittee.

Get that?

The SAB Report was written by two corporate officials, one from Dupont, who also happened to develop the chemical hazard assessment method, the other from a corporation that makes profits off water.

That has got to be a gross conflict of interest, right?

Here are DEP’s SAB Ethics requirements:

Conflict of Interest and Recusal

You must recuse yourself from deliberations on any subject matter in which you have a financial or other personal interest (“conflict of interest”). This means that when an issue or topic for consideration (“charge topic”) is identified by the NJDEP Commissioner to the SAB or Standing Committee, you must refrain from participating in any discussion of that charge topic (or issues that subsequently arise from that charge topic) and must immediately publicly disclose your conflict of interest and recuse yourself from that charge topic.

For purposes of the above restriction, “conflict of interest” means any financial or other interest which conflicts with the service of the individual because it 1) could significantly impair the individual’s objectivity or 2) could create an unfair competitive advantage for any person or organization. “Recusal” means the process by which a person is disqualified, or disqualifies himself or herself from a matter because of a conflict of interest.

With respect to Gannon (Dupont) and Dyksen (United Water) I particularly like this DEP example of a conflict of interest that requires recusal:

  • The SAB/SC member is employed (or self-employed) by an entity that is regulated by NJDEP or an entity that represents clients before NJDEP or the member is employed by an entity that comes before the NJDEP in a lobbying or other capacity and a charge topic is related to the member’s employment.

So, let’s apply that DEP SAB conflict of interest policy:

1. Dupont and United Water are regulated by the DEP.

2. The subject matter of the SAB Final Report involves the need for regulation of chemicals manufactured by Dupont and subject to costly treatment requirements by United Water.

3. It is so obvious that it almost goes without saying that Dupont has huge financial interests in DEP scientific and regulatory decisions about whether and how to regulate currently unregulated chemicals.

4. Dupont gains competitive advantage by advanced insider knowledge of the development of and an ability to influence DEP regulation.

5. A Dupont official has an obvious bias that would significantly impair his objectivity.

There are at least 4 blatant violations of the DEP SAB ethics restrictions on conflicts of interest. 

Similarly, United Water has equally obvious significant economic interests in whether and to what degree DEP regulates currently unregulated chemicals. United Water has similar competitive advantage and bias/impaired objectivity problems.

How is this not a scandal worthy of New York Times coverage?

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Christie DEP’s Political Spin Infects DEP Science and Water Quality Report

February 21st, 2015 No comments

DEP’s Recent Favorable Conclusions on Fenimore Landfill Are a Sham

We shall seek EPA Region 2 and EPA Inspector General review of this matter

stream just below Fenimore landfill. Severe erosion, physical impairment. Even if leachate seeps had no impact, runoff from landfill creates erosion and sedimentation. DEP claims sediment are #2 cause of impairment to Drakes Brook.

stream just below Fenimore landfill. Severe erosion, physical impairment. Even if leachate seeps had no impact, runoff from landfill creates erosion and sedimentation. DEP claims sediment is #2 cause of impairment to Drakes Brook.

After almost a year of foot dragging, this week DEP finally released water quality documents, originally requested in our April 25, 2014 Open Public Records Act request that DEP denied, regarding the impacts of Fenimore Landfill on nearby streams.

The DEP’s new water quality assessment directly contradicts years of prior studies, including the current legally binding 2012 “Impaired Waters List” required by the federal Clean Water Act.

Specifically, DEP just released a September 2014 “Stressor Identification of Drakes Brook’ (if the Report was final in September, why did it take 5 months to be released? Perhaps maybe because it could have had an impact on the closure of the landfill?)

The new DEP Report concludes, among other things:

Also, this study found that the Fenimore Landfill does not appear to be a major contributor to the impairment of the benthic macroinvertebrate communities in the downstream reaches of Drakes Brook covered by this investigation. This finding is based on the benthic macroinvertebrate sampling conducted at a station located on an unnamed tributary downstream of the landfill near Ledgewood Pond (DR-LB2) during this study which indicated a Good rating (including 30% sensitive taxa).

There are several red flag dead giveaway anomalies that jump right out of that incidental “also” conclusion, which was curiously tacked on to the Executive Summary, seemingly dangling there without a purpose, but ostensibly put in the Executive Summary so it could be readily found by the public and unknowing lay readers based on a cursory review (akin to press release rigor).

First, no other potential “major contributor” was specifically named and determined NOT to be a problem.

There are dozens of potential “major contributors”, including toxic sites, major storm water outfalls, etc. None of them are named as “not” a major contributor. Take a look at the DEP’s recent original inventory of pollution targets. Good photos of Fenimore.

Second, note the qualifier DEP stuck on that conclusion: i.e. Fenimore “does not appear” to be a “major contributor”.

[The term “major contributor” is not defined in DEP’s most current EPA approved 2012 water quality assessment methods document. The term has no meaning and is highly subjective.]

Aside from the subjective judgment required to determine what “major” means, the use of “does not appear” is a stock euphemism that is the DEP scientist’s way of saying “we lack data to support this conclusion” (implicitly which is being dictated by our hack managers for political reasons).

Third, curiously, in a study designed to identify the causes and sources of impairment, the DEP did additional sampling just below Fenimore landfill to rule out the landfill, which is the opposite of the study’s objective:

The purpose of these additional biological monitoring stations was to trace how far upstream from AN0311 the biological degradation was actually occurring, and to rule out contributing portions of the Drakes Brook sub-watershed as sources of stress to the stream biota.

Fourth, and this is the most important point and a smoking gun: when a water quality impairment is found, all major potential pollution sources, like landfills, are presumptively considered to be a contributing source. Because prior DEP field investigations verified visual observations of landfill leachate seeps at Fenimore, the only way to overcome this presumption is with conclusive sampling data from Fenimore leachate showing no pollutant levels of concern that could cause or contribute to the water quality impairment.

However, in an odd and significant departure from standard scientific and regulatory methods, the DEP did just the opposite: they concluded that Fenimore was NOT a pollution source based on NO DATA:

Nutrient and organic enrichment from the Quality Inn effluent and/or Fenimore landfill leachate: While the Quality Inn effluent and Fenimore landfill leachate were not directly sampled for this study, their effects on the benthic community at AN0311, at the time of this investigation, seem limited at best, based on results of stream nutrient and BOD sampling in the watershed. (@p. 24)

The DEP did not sample the Fenimore leachate seeps that their own prior field investigation determined were a potential source of the problem. Yet, without data, the DEP now concludes that Fenimore is NOT a problem.

Fifth, DEP tried to mask their deception.

Specifically: DEP ignored and omitted a current field investigation that identified the Fenimore Landfill as a major pollution source. While they ignore current negative findings, DEP reaches back 40 years to select very old data to create a false impression that all prior DEP concerns about Fenimore pollution are 40 years old (and thus not reliable or recent):

Additionally, this study finds that the Fenimore Landfill does not appear to be a major contributor to the impairment of the benthic macroinvertebrate communities in the downstream reaches of Drakes Brook covered by this investigation. This is based upon the benthic macroinvertebrate sampling conducted at a station located on an unnamed tributary upstream of Ledgewood Pond (DR-LB2) which indicated a Good rating (including 30% sensitive EPT taxa). This is contrary to previous NJDEP studies from 1975-76 which indicated significant degradation to Drakes Brook being caused by the landfill.

Last, DEP relies on and cites two studies that do not meet DEP’s own QA/QC requirements and are not germane to water quality (see studies cited in footnotes #14 and #16).

It is one thing for the DEP press office to spin information and sometimes even make embarrassing mistakes, like calling old landfill leachate seeps “natural”. The Press Office is staffed by reporters and their spin has no regulatory significance.

Similarly, it’s extremely embarrassing – but of no regulatory significance – when the political patronage hack that manages DEP’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs – Commissioner Bob Martin’s Bridgette Kelly – describes sycamores along the Delaware River in Bulls Island State Park an “invasive species”.

But, when DEP regulatory documents – funded by EPA and the basis of EPA delegated Clean Water Act programs – start spinning the data, then that is a completely different kettle of fish and is a serious problem. Follow me as I lay this all out.

  • The Fenimore Saga of Deceit

On October 15, 2011, before the controversial disposal and odor problems emerged, I toured the Fenimore landfill in Roxbury NJ. The landfill drains to a stream known as Drakes Brook.

I wasn’t out on a picnic – I began my career in DEP in 1985 in the solid waste program, was part of the team that wrote the first Statewide Landfill Closure Plan in the late 1980′s, was involved in developing DEP’s Watershed Planning initiative in the early 1990′s,  and I subsequently drafted the environmental provisions of the 2004 Highlands Act. After leaving DEP in 2004, I then served as a consultant to the Highlands Coalition to lead the effort on participating in DEP’s drafting of the implementation rules.

1. Field Visit

On October 15, 2011, I walked the entire perimeter of the landfill and took a lot of pictures of many environmental problems I saw, including leachate seeps, solid waste, including old drums, in the woods and in streams, and negatively impacted streams. I posted some of those photos on October 16, 2011, under this note:

Highlands Hike – The Landfill Loop Trail

This article set me out to Roxbury for a field visit to the Fenimore Landfill for photos for a post on why the Highlands Act provided the Council with strong power to influence DEP cleanup of contaminated sites.

You find the darndest things hiking NJ trails – stuff like this:

While the issue has got zero media attention, the controversial Fenimore landfill is polluting not only the air, but nearby surface water (streams) and groundwater.

2. Sham Consultant’s Report claims “no impact”

Over 2 years after that first visit, after the Fenimore debate exploded, on April 16, 2014, I wrote a post that exposed false and misleading statements in a Roxbury Township’s consultant Report about the Fenimore landfill’s impact on the stream the landfill drains to, know as Drakes Brook. Specifically, that Report found:

Sampling of these streams as recent as March 2013 did not show any impacts from the landfill

I noted that that conclusion of ‘no impact” from the landfill was based on studies that had nothing to do with water quality and that it contradicted prior DEP conclusions that the Drakes Brook was impaired and that Fenimore landfill was a source of the problem. Read the entire post for the details and links to the documents.

Specifically, in a 2008 Ambient BioMonitoring Network Report, based upon data collected in 204, the DEP determined that Drakes Brook, at Emmans Road in Roxbury, was “moderately impaired” for the “aquatic life support” use designation.

In a subsequent intensive DEP field investigation Report to determine the causes and sources of impairment and pollution to Drakes Brook, “Stressor Indicators: In Search of a Cause”, DEP specifically identified Fenimore Landfill, including “many landfill leachate seeps” and a “leachate pond” as contributing to the impairment of Drake Brook.

Take a look at the framework of that DEP study, there are a number of maps and photographs that show Fenimore Landfill.

Based upon the DEP findings and my own visual observations, there is no way the landfill was having “no impact” on Drakes Brook as the consultant stated.

 3. DEP Denies Public Records Request for the Documents – Lies to Press about impairment

On June 11, 2014, NJ PEER issued a press release, primarily to do a national distribution of the local group REACT’s Report.

Specifically, PEER made this claim:

… what neither the residents of Roxbury nor SEP knew was that state DEP biological monitoring data showed that the two streams running around the landfill were impaired. This Stressor Indicator report is based on sampling studies from 2009-2010 showing the deleterious impacts on aquatic life in the Drakes Brook watershed from Fenimore.

In that press release, we also criticized DEP’s unusual denial of our April 25, 2014 OPRA public records request for the DEP’s own water quality studies on Drakes Brook that showed that the stream was impaired and there were negative impacts from the landfill.

The PEER press release got covered in a June 25, 2014 Engineering NEws Report story “NJ Landfill Mired in Turmoil”, in which DEP press office was quoted as follows:

Wolfe says biological monitoring data shows that two streams running around the landfill were impaired. Had that information been made public, the Fenimore never would have received a re-opening permit from the DEP, the site would not have been declared a brownfield site, and the solar project would not have gone forward, Wolfe alleges. The report that includes the biological monitoring data from 2010 “is not a draft—it is being withheld because its findings are deeply embarrassing to the Christie people,” he says.

Ragonese denies that the draft report shows anything abnormal, and adds that the final report—part of a routine watershed analysis—will be released in coming weeks. Also this summer, NJDEP plans to put out a request for proposals to cap the site, and begin work on closing the landfill before the end of the year.

I explained and documented why DEP’s denial of the OPRA request (on the basis of the deliberative privilege exemption) and Ragonese’s statements where false in a June 25, 2014 post, which included additional DEP documentation from the DEP’s EPA approved 2012 Clean Water Act Section “303(d) Impaired Waters List” (2012) that listed Drakes Brook as “impaired”.

So there it is folks.  Let’s summarize:

DEP’s political masters have pressured the DEP science an water quality assessment staffers to spin the data and absolve Fenimore landfill as a source of pollution. They reached this conclusion, which contradicted prior field investigations, based on no actual Fenimore leachate seep data – or groundwater monitoring data.

Because this is a federally funded and delegated program, we shall seek EPA Region 2 and EPA Inspector General review of this whole matter.

We will keep you posted.


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Memo to the Pundits and Professors: Manipulation & Deceit Are Not “Political Strengths”

February 19th, 2015 No comments

NJ Media Has A Duty To Warn Primary Voters About Christie’s Dishonest Tactics

Gov. Christie nearing the end of his Blue Fleece phase, spins at Union Beach Press Conference (Feb. 5, 2013)

Gov. Christie nearing the end of his Blue Fleece phase, spins at Union Beach Press Conference (Feb. 5, 2013)


[Update: 2/21/15 – Charlie Stile at the Bergen Record upheld that duty to warn in a must read absolute killer column today, see:

Christie’s Straight shooting in N.H. is loaded with irony back in New Jersey  ~~~~ end update]

The Bergen Record ran a piece today about Gov. Christie’s political campaign tactics that just makes my blood boil, see

Coming from an academic source, teaching at a Catholic institution that touts its mission that “focuses on academic and ethical development“, this quote is particularly outrageous

“It’s playing to his strengths,” said Matthew Hale, a Seton Hall political science professor. “His strengths in my mind are that people can look at him and identify with him. They look at him as a person, as him being fed up and quite frankly saying what he thinks. I think Jeb Bush is taking the more imperial route to his campaign so far. He’s giving these big policy addresses that are talking about these big ideas, but how many hands is he |shaking?”

Gov. Christie’s “strengths” that the good professor Hale is touting amount to manipulation and deceit of voters.

I’m sure Seton Hall does not consider such tactics as part of the “ethical development” of their students or our politics.

The University and its Professors have professional, ethical – and in this case, moral – obligations to truth, and to speak and act based on the truth, particularly in the public arena and in educational capacities.

Professor Hale has observed Gov. Christie’s political tactics for over 5 years now.

He knows the Truth – he knows exactly how the Governor inflated his favorable ratings by opportunistic and craven – but substantively empty and misleading – self promotion, the symbol of which has become the Blue Fleece.

President Clinton had his blue dress – Gov. Christie’s Blue Fleece should be no less notorious a symbol of moral failure.

The fact that a Catholic University Professor could describe those tactics as “strengths” is appalling and a sign of the decadence and decline of our democracy.

I fired off this letter to the editor at the Bergen Record, which I doubt they will print so do so here:

Dear Editor:

Re: Analysis: With voters, Christie stresses persona over policy (8/19/15)

After covering Gov. Christie for 5 years, NJ media can play an enormously important role in the Presidential primary debates.

Journalists have a professional – if not moral – obligation to educate voters in other states about Gov. Christie’s record and his political tactics.

So, now seeing Christie deploying the same “blue fleece” BS tactics he used to dupe the people of NJ, why does your analysis quote sources that praise those manipulative and dishonest tactics?

They should be condemned as those of a demagogue.

Fool me once….

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