Author Archive: Winston Smith

What’s Wrong with Mt. Holly?

This is primarily a photo essay, with text narration. To view, see:

http://www.wolfenotes.com/2010…

           Racist Socio -Economic Cleansing In Mt. Holly, NJ

Now Tom said “Mom, wherever there’s a cop beatin’ a guy

Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries

Where there’s a fight ‘gainst the blood and hatred in the air

Look for me Mom I’ll be there

Wherever there’s somebody fightin’ for a place to stand

Or decent job or a helpin’ hand

Wherever somebody’s strugglin’ to be free

Look in their eyes Mom you’ll see me.”  (“Ghost of Tom Joad” (listen to Springsteen & Pete Seeger)

I read Bill Potter’s superb Op-Ed in NJ Spotlight this morning and was appalled by what I learned was going on in Mt. Holly at a place ironically called The Gardens (please read it:  “Speaking Truth to Power in Mt. Holly – Under the guise of ‘redevelopment,’ Mount Holly has been carrying out what amounts to ‘socio-economic cleansing’ of lower-income areas.”

As corrupt  as NJ has become, I still found it hard to believe that such racist egregious abuses could happen here – a NJ local government acting like Russian Oligarchs or Chechen rebels, mimicking the worst of the Maoist Cultural Revolution or the Castro expropriations.

No, something this ugly could not happen in 21st century America – and surely not in “progressive” suburban NJ.

So, I decided to take a little trip down to Mt. Holly to go to the “Block Party” protest against the mistreatment of the Gardens residents.

I walked around, spoke to several homeowners and renters – and here’s what I saw and found – descriptions under the photo captions. But photo’s really can’t do justice to the scene I observed.

What is wrong with the peope of Mt. Holly that they would allow their local government to do this?

My first impression was one of disbelief. As I approached from a distance, I saw what initially looked like a typical suburban garden apartment complex, surrounded by wooded areas. But it was badly fragmented. Large open spaces existed between the buildings and some were actively being demolished. I imagined that this is what bombed out post WW II European cities must have looked like. It was far worse than abandoned areas of Camden and the South Bronx I have visited, because these were not abandoned buildings: people were living amidst the chaos. Worse, the chaos was being created by a local government!

(see full post w/photos:

http://www.wolfenotes.com/2010…

Did You Know That Over 500 Chemicals Are In Your Drinking Water?

                        DEP Does – Support Demand for Action

[for version with links to documents, go to:

http://www.wolfenotes.com/2010…

NJ PEER recently filed a petition to force the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to develop rules to require public disclosure, monitoring, and treatment for over 500 currently unregulated chemicals detected by DEP in NJ public water supplies (to read the petition, click here).

DEP has known for years that our water supplies are polluted by over 500 unregulated chemicals, with unknown health risk. (for example, the chemicals linked to a childhood cancer cluster in Toms River were unregulated, and they still are).

It is way past time that DEP take regulatory action to reduce health risks, warn the public about the problem, and require currrently available treatment technologies to clean up our water supplies.

The scientific basis for the petition is DEP’s own policy paper “Investigations Related to a ‘Treatment-Based’ Regulatory Approach to Address Unregulated Contaminants in Drinking Water”.

To read the PEER press release and supporting documents, click here.

Public notice of the petition was published in the October 18, NJ Register (See below).

DEP will be making a decision on the petition in the next 30 days. DEP needs to hear from you!

We urge our environmental group colleagues and their members to endorse the petition and to lobby DEP Commissioner Martin to approve the petition (of course, legislative oversight and inquiries are esepcially welcomed!).

We urge readers to email Bob.Martin@DEP.State.NJ.US or write to DEP Commissioner Martin in support of the petition at:

Bob Martin, Commissioner NJDEP

401 East State Street, CN 001

Trenton NJ 08625

My First Taste of NJ Corruption

The death of Cary Edwards reminds me of my first taste of NJ corruption – and one and only indirect experience with Mr. Edwards.

Here’s the story:

In late 1980’s, I was with DEP and was negotiating the terms of a $48 million state DEP loan to the Newark garbage incinerator project.

The source of state funds was the 1985 Resource Recovery and Solid Waste Disposal Facility Bond Act (a voter approved loan program).

After months of negotiation, at the final meeting (at the Newark office of the bond counsel law firm) where the parties were expected to execute the loan, the Deputy Attorney General (DAG) reversed course and refused to sign the loan agreement.

The DAG claimed the terms of the loan were illegal because it effectively turned a $48 million loan into a revenue producing grant, thereby violating IRS regulations and the NJ constitution (because voters had approved a bond referrendum for a loan program, not a grant program).

The Essex County representative who led the meeting was furious (his name was Curtis Meanor, I think he was a retired judge, because people called him “judge”).

He exploded, his face got red as a beet, he pounded the table, and called the DAG a “little bitch”.

He then demanded that she immediately call her boss, Attorney General Cary Edwards. Meanor claimed that the loan terms were guaranteed by a hand shake deal between Governors Tom Kean and Mario Cuomo.

The meeting was suspended so that the State team could caucus. In my presence, the DAG then called AG Edwards and briefed him over the phone.

Shortly thereafter, she turned white as a ghost.

The phone coversation ended abruptly.

We then resumed the meeting.

The DAG said” “The State of NJ is prepared to execute the loan”

The DAG proceeded to execute the loan agreement and the meeting ended shortly thereafter.

That was my fisrt taste of NJ corruption.

On the ride back to Trenton with my boss, who I respected, I asked him WTF just went on and what we were going to do about it.

His advice: “Bill, you’re just starting out on a promising career. There’s lot’s of interesting work at DEP. Let me give you something else to work on.”

I bit my tongue and lost all respect for my boss – as well as a little self respect.

Assembly Dems blast Christie DEP Permit Privatization

As a setup to yesterday’s legislative oversight hearing, on Wednesday, I wrote a post that asked:

“Are Dems Finally Engaging Christie’s War on the Environment?”

http://www.bluejersey.com/diar…

I don’t know the answer to that question as to whether there is shared parrty leadership perspective on this (don’t think so).

But yesterday, Assembly Dems – led by Chairman John McKeon and Reed Gusciora – exercised effective ovesight and blasted a Christie Administration plan to privatize DEP land use permits.

They deserve recognition and thanks for that.

See today’s news coverage for the story:

Star Ledger:

Release of unapproved N.J. private land-use permitting was a mistake, DEP says

http://www.nj.com/news/index.s…

NJ Spotlight

Administration’s Attempt to Promote Privatization Studied By Assembly Committee – Stealth RFP continues to draw fire from lawmakers and environmentalists

http://www.njspotlight.com/sto…

WolfeNotes:

Oh What A Tangled Web We Weave

http://www.wolfenotes.com/2010…

 

Christie DEP Provides a “Safety Cushion” to Polluters

[for linked version, go to:

http://www.wolfenotes.com/2010…

NEW JERSEY GUTS NEW PRIVATIZED TOXIC CLEAN-UP RULES – “Safety Cushion” Extended to Polluters at Expense of Public Health

Before new rules governing privately operated clean-up of toxic sites could be implemented, New Jersey has already substantially relaxed them to provide a “safety cushion” to responsible parties. This removes enforceable timetables that were the main promised benefit from ceding control of clean-ups to corporate consultants, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

On October 4, 2010, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) proposed new rules that weaken new mandatory clean-up timeframes that were adopted just last December. In addition, DEP wants to soften standards for addressing vapor intrusion, a major problem in New Jersey on thousands of toxic sites that have merely been capped rather than thoroughly cleaned.

“This is regulatory bait and switch where public health is what gets ripped off,” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, pointing out that legislation authorizing privately overseen clean-ups was premised on the promise that they would be much faster than state supervised operations. “DEP caved before they even applied the new rules.”

Besides setting aside the specific deadlines for each phase of the clean-up process and penalties for failing to meet these schedules, DEP is also proposing to –

•Weaken the standard for addressing vapor intrusion from sites that supposedly had been remediated; and

•Abandon requirements that the corporate consultant “complete the delineation of the immediate environmental concern contaminant source” within two years; and

•Relieve consultants from liability for factors that arise after their initial reports, creating an incentive not to discover troublesome facts until late in the process.

According to DEP postings, the rationale for these rollbacks is to provide a “safety cushion” to responsible parties and their contractors due to the fact that “Stakeholders expressed concern” about strict requirements in the original regulations.

“The only stakeholders that DEP consulted were the polluters and their contractors. Blighted communities and homeowners are not complaining that clean-ups may be moving too fast – just the opposite,” added Wolfe, a former DEP analyst. “Why is DEP pulling away the ‘safety cushion’ on vapor intrusion? DEP is now only concerned about toxic fumes seeping into basements when it sends people to the hospital and not when people are being slowly poisoned.”

###

Read the DEP Compliance Advisory  

See the DEP proposed relaxation

View the rules adopted in December 2009 that will be relaxed

Look at huge vapor intrusion problems in New jersey

Note how delays have plagued New Jersey toxic site clean-ups

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  

Are Dems Finally Engaging Christie’s War on the Environment?

It looks like the Democrats finally may have begun to realize that the Christie Administration – with DEP Commissioner Bob Martin as the point of the speer – is waging a war on the environment.

Tomorrrow afternoon at 2 pm, the Assembly Environment Committee conducts legislative oversight and calls Commissioner Martin on the carpet for the recent controversial stealth move to seek privatization of DEP land use permitting:

The committee will hear from the Commissioner of Environmental Protection and other invited guests regarding the recently issued Request for Proposals seeking private contractors to handle certain land use permits

Also up tomorrow morning on the Senate side is a bill, S 2341, sponsored by Senate Environment Committee Chair Bob Smith. The bill would force DEP – after years of footdragging – to act and adopt a cleanup plan for Barnegat Bay:

This bill would require the Department of Environmental Protection to conduct a study and prepare a report that evaluates the water quality of Barnegat Bay to determine whether the bay is impaired as described pursuant to section 303(d) of the federal Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. s.1313.  The study would examine whether the waters of Barnegat Bay meet State water quality standards, and would be required to focus on the impairments caused by phosphorus, nitrates and excessive sediment.  Upon a finding that the Barnegat Bay is impaired, the bill would require the department to develop total maximum daily loads for the bay.

We urge you to jump in and we’ll keeep you posted on what goes down.

For more info and links to all the technical documents, see:

http://www.wolfenotes.com/

The ARC is Not Alone: Trenton’s Other Infrastructure Disaster

[for version with links to supporting documents, see:

http://www.wolfenotes.com/2010…

How would Governor Christie look on a national stage when back home, his Capital City had no water?

DEP Commissioner Martin To Address Clean Water Council Tomorrow

Governor Christie’s rash and reckless decision to cancel the ARC rail tunnel to Manhattan – followed just days later by reconsideration – prompted widespread media attention.

Ironically, the Governor’s bad decision provoked intense media focus on an important under-reported story: the critical importance of infrastructure investment and the need to finance that deficit.

The Governor’s decision also provided ammunition to advocates and critics, allowing them to effectively focus on how Christie’s anti-government and anti-tax ideology is a disaster for NJ’s economic future, air quality, and transportation mobility.

But, at the same time, there was another equally important infrastructure disaster unfolding in Trenton.

Just as the Statewide drought was abating, the Trenton regional public water supply system collapsed.

As a result, for several days, virtually the entire Trenton Capital Region – including the State House – was without water or under Third World like boil water alerts.

Had there been a fire, there would have been no water to fight it.

Bacterially contaminated water that flowed through the system – for days without warnings to consumers – posed deadly risks for infants and people with immune system disorders.

In contrast with the ARC story, which got national media attention, the Trenton drinking water story was confined to the local Trenton press.

How would Governor Christie look on a national stage when back home, his Capital City had no water?

Shockingly, the Trenton region is not alone – aging and poorly maintained public water supply systems are vulnerable throughout NJ.

Back to the Trenton story –

In a dramatic move, a professional licensed water system operator who worked for the  Trenton waterworks for 33 years resigned and blew the whistle. He marched directly to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) building – press in tow (watch the video) – to report what he described as a coverup of the real cause of the collapse.

Few seem to know that DEP is deeply involved in this situation:

1) DEP issued boil water alerts;

2) the whistelblower reported to DEP because DEP regulates the operation & management and controls funding of the Trenton system; and

3) after the crisis past, DEP issued a diversionary and self serving press release that downplayed risks and pointed the finger at Trenton’s Mayor.

Yet despite this comprehensive DEP role, all local press reports of the episode failed to connect the dots to broader State infrastructure investment and DEP regulatory policies.

Tomorrow’s Clean Water Advisory Council’s annual public hearing at the DEP Building provides an opportunity to explore these kind of water supply infrastrucure deficit and management issues in detail.

On Tuesday, October 12, 2010, the New Jersey Clean Water Council will seek public testimony on its Draft Recommendations for Water Infrastructure Management and Financing. New Jersey’s water infrastructure – water supply, wastewater, stormwater – is aging, with failures being common news. In response, the Council has released a white paper for public consideration and comment.

We provided a heads up and outlined some of the issues in last week’s set up post: “Clean Water Council Considering Privatization”

According to a late Friday afternoon press release, DEP Commissioner Martin will speak to the Council. I am eager to hear Martin talk about the Christie Administration’s commitments and detailed plans to:

1)  provide a stable source of funding to meet the $20 billion infrastructure deficit;

2) promulgate regulations to assure that infrastructure is properly maintained to avoid catastrophic failures;

3) break the cycle of recurrent drought;

4) explain the new science, policies, and programs to update the 15 year old Water Supply Master Plan;

5) adopt new regulations to control emergent and unregulated contaminants that pose health risks;

6) DEP plans to adopt Drinking Water Quality Institute recommendations  for new MCL’s for perchlorate and more stringent MCLs for several other toxic chemicals; and

7) defend his recommendations to Governor Christie to consolidate the New Jersey Water Supply Authority with the North Jersey Duistrict Water Supply Commission.

I’m signed up to testify and urge readers to attend and speak (there is no requirement to pre-register).

We’ll keep you posted about what goes down at the hearing..

Garfield Cancer Risk From Chromium in Basements is Highest in US

[for version with multiple links and great photos from Tuesday’s public hearing, see:

http://www.wolfenotes.com/2010…

Cancer Risk is 3 in 10 – 300,000 TIMES HIGHER than NJ’s Standard of 1 in a million

Last week, the little known federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) took the “very rare” step of issuing a public health advisory in Garfield, NJ due to extremely high levels of toxic hexavalent chromium (VI) found in the basement of homes.

The ATSDR was the subject of a standing room only public meeting on Tuesday night at Garfield’s Roosevelt School #7, which is located less than 300 feet from EC Electroplating, the source of the chromium pollution.

ATSDR found that the high levels found in residential basement samples create an “immediate and significant risk to human health”. The risk level translates into a cancer risk of  3 in 10 (see Table 5), which is 300,000 times HIGHER than NJ’s legal cancer risk standard of one in a million.

ATSDR was created by the 1980 Superfund law to provide scientific advice to EPA and inform the public about health risk of hazardous chemicals. They do health assessments in 300-400 communities per year across the coutnry. Since their creation in 1980, ATSDR has issued only 27 advisories in the entire country, and none since 1999.

I asked the head of ATSDR’s Division of Health Assessment Bill Cibulas point blank whether he had ever seen cancer risks like Garfield chromium (3 in 10) anywhere in the US – including notorius Superfund sites like Love Canal, NY; Times Beach Missouri; and Libby Montana  – and he said “no”.

That makes Garfield perhaps the highest cancer risk site in the US.

The ATSDR “immediate and significant risk to human health” findings validate the concerns I expressed at the May 20 public meeting, when I accused NJ state officials of downplaying the risks, misleading the community, and dragging their feet in responding to an urgent problem.

At tonite’s hearing, when I pressed EPA scientists to quantify what a “very harmful” cancer risk is, they indicated that the risk in sampled homes was 2 in 1,000, or 2,000 TIMES higher than the acceptable risk under NJ laws, which is 1 in a million.

The more recent ATSDR findings also validate our prior work on chromium risks since 2005.

This is important, because EPA, to provide an excuse for delay, is claiming that the science on chromium risk is very recent. So click on and see:

NEW JERSEY FACING CHROMIUM EMERGENCY – 1 IN 10 CANCER RISKS – State Scientist Reveals DEP Cover-Up; Demand for Federal Intervention

Trenton – New Jersey state officials are deliberately ignoring mounting evidence of serious health threats to populations surrounding scores of contaminated sites, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). State sampling data show that individual cancer risks from continued presence of airborne chromium exposure to chromium may be as high as 1 in 10 at some sites the state has declared to be clean. (link to fulll report)

In fact, in a November 5, 2005 letter, we released a DEP chemical engineer’s whistleblower report that documented malfeasance by the NJ DEP. One key finding that is directly relevant to Garfield was this:

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.

Based on that report, we petitioned US EPA to intervene:

Dear Administrator Johnson:

The enclosed Report and formal requests are submitted by Zoe Kelman, an employee of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). New Jersey Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (NJ PEER) joins Ms. Kelman in making this request for federal intervention in New Jersey.

Enclosed for your review and action please find: REPORT TO THE NJDEP COMMISIONER ON NJDEP’s CHROMIUM CLEANUP CRITERIA” (Kelman, October 2005. hereafter “Report”).

The Report demonstrates that documented releases of hazardous substances are causing direct exposure of thousands of residents in densely populated urban areas. These exposures constitute an unacceptable risk, an imminent and substantial threat to human health and environment, and a public health emergency. The Report finds that:

1) NJDEP conducted sampling that shows actual individual cancer risks as high as one in ten (1×10(-1)) at sites that have been certified by NJDEP as clean pursuant to State remedial laws;

More recently, on April 22, 2009, we disclosed a DEP risk assessment:

CHROMIUM FAR DEADLIER THAN EARLIER ASSESSMENTS INDICATE – Scores of Capped New Jersey Contaminated Sites Will Have to Be Re-Evaluated

Washington, DC – A new risk assessment concludes that even a miniscule amount of chromium in the soil is associated with carcinogenicity, according to documents posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Current New Jersey standards are more than 200 times laxer than these new findings indicate are needed to protect public health.

The “Risk Assessment for Hexavalent Chromium” performed for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) was finalized on April 8, 2009. Its key conclusion is –

“Based on exposure assumptions for the oral exposure pathway in the NJDEP Soil Remediation Standards, this potency factor corresponds to a soil remediation criterion for Cr+6 of 1 ppm”. (link to full report)

Since then, in May 2009 the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Jersey City based Interfaith Community Organization (ICO) petitioned the NJ DEP to adopt chromium cleanup standards based on their own sciecne. DEP denied this petition and still has failed to act to adopt protective cleanup standards.

But let’s get back to current developments in Garfield.

The NJ Department of Health and Senior Services will release a cancer incidence report in November. In December 2009, DHSS found elevated cancer risks in Pompton Lakes.

EPA plans to list the site on the Superfund “National Priorities List” (NPL), based on the ATSDR health advisory (see excellent recent Bergen Record coverage here, and here and here).

EPA has mapped the contaminated groundwater plume. About 700 homes are in the area of concern. EPA issued a survey and about 490 property owners responded. Of those responding, EPA inspected and sampled about 255 of these homes, and found unacceptably high levels 13-16 homes.   We assume that additional problems will be found as more homes are sampled.

I don’t want to repeat the Bergen Record’s coverage, but do want to make a few points that are not gettting adequate attention:

1.  The history of the site illustrates  another DEP disgrace.

DEP discovered a large spill at EC Electroplating back in 1983.  DEP relied on the polluter, EC Electroplating to voluntarily clean up the site and protect the adjacent densely developed residential community.

That didn’t happen, yet DEP failed to enforce cleanup laws, conduct a cleanup themselves, or warn residents of risks so that they could protect themselves.

DEP requested that EPA take over the site in 2002. For 8 years, very little was done by US EPA.

EPA still has not taken enforcement action or even initiated the first step of cost recovery action against the polluter (RP) EC Electroplating.

2. There are widespread chromium problems in scores of NJ communities that are not getting the proper attention by DEP or EPA.

3.  DEP continues to fail to move forward with adopting protective soil and groundwater cleanup standards for chromium, based on the most recent science.

4. Homeowners may be eligible to file Spill Fund claims to DEP for reimbursement of property values that hasve been reduced by the discharge of the hazardous substance chromium.

Here are DEP’s Spill Fund claim regulations which define eligible recoverable damage as (among many others):

“Damages” means all cleanup and removal costs and all direct and indirect damages actually incurred, no matter by whom sustained, arising in connection with a discharge of a hazardous substance, or in connection with a threatened discharge, which costs and damages include, but are not limited to, the following:

1. The cost of restoring, repairing or replacing any real or personal property damaged or destroyed by a discharge, any income lost from the time such property is damaged to the time such property is restored, repaired or replaced, and any reduction in value of such property caused by such discharge in comparison with its value absent the discharge; [2-7 omitted]

5. The Garfield community needs to organize and demand immediate sampling and cleanups of all potentially impacted homes.  

Community leaders should seek out well organized groups in nearby PomptonLakes and Jersey City. (hit links for contact info)

6. EPA, ATSDR, and/or NJ DHSSS should conduct (and pay for) medical assessments, bio-monitoring and health tracking of residents in homes found to have high levels of contamiantion in order to establish a baseline, guage exposures, and monitor potential health effects of chromium exposure.

Here are photos of the passion and concerns expressed by residents at Tuesday’s meeting in Garfield.

DEP Dead in the Water – Eye of Category 5 Hurrricane Christie/Martin Passing Over Trenton

After pounding Trenton for months with record breaking sustained 175 mile per hour winds, destroying several major programs, and killing the morale of over 3,000 DEP workers, the Christie/Martin anti-regulatory winds have gone slack over Trenton.

As the eye of the storm passes over Trenton, we thought we’d take this opportunity to inventory the current damage and outline the path of destruction to follow (done in summary fashion – please hit the links for the full discussion and source documents, or use the word search function on the top righthand corner of this page to access my prior posts on that topic). We invite and welcome additional reports from readers out there – and please provide documentation.

I)  Damage Assessment Thus Far

1. New regulations virtually stalled.

To give readers a sense of the radical nature of the Christie/Martin assault and illustrate just how dead in the water DEP is, we gathered data on historic DEP rulemaking activity:

Year                                          Rules Proposed                       Rules Adopted

2004                                                 NA                                           8

2005                                                 NA                                           8

2006                                                 NA                                          11

2007                                                 22                                           11

2008                                                  18                                          24

2009                                                 21                                            9

2010                                                 4                                             2

[for full post with numerous links, hit this link:

http://www.wolfenotes.com/2010…

Orphanages and the Poor House: Just a shot away

Oh, a storm is threat’ning

My very life today

If I don’t get some shelter

Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away

War, children, it’s just a shot away

It’s just a shot away

War, children, it’s just a shot away

It’s just a shot away
~~~ “Gimme Shelter” The Rolling Stones (1969)

Allan Steinberg, a Republican hack apologist for Governor Christie, argues in an Op-Ed today that NJN must be saved.

See: “NJN Must Be Saved

http://www.newjerseynewsroom.c…

But saved by whom, pray tell?

Steinberg claims that NJ taxpayers can’t afford to subsidize a “television station”, despite the fact that he views NJN as a “irreplaceable institution.”

But don’t worry. Steinberg has a solution.  

He says private philanthropy is the answer.

So, while we’re at it, shall we bring back those other philanthropic institutions, like orphanages, the Poor House, and worker housing too?

Noblesse oblige!