LETTER – DEP Water Presentations Shows Delay on Drinking Water Action Deliberate

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The New Jersey Sierra Club are releasing DEP slideshows kept from the public that shows they are misleading the public and the Senate about the need to update standards to protect our drinking water. This important information includes their plans to review amendments to the New Jersey Safe Drinking Water Act rules and the Private Well Testing Act rules, but has been kept from the public. Though the DEP is planning to make amendments, it may be too little too late for the people who have been drinking contaminated water. These amendments also show that the DEP has clearly mislead the legislature and the public when they said they still needed to check the Drinking Water Quality Institute’s data on some chemicals. In particular, DEP is planning to implement a new Maximum Contaminant Level for Trichloropropane (1,2,3-TCP) based on recommendations from the DWQI at 0.03 ug/L. This was the same recommendation from the Institute in 2009, but they told the legislature they still needed time to review the data. They are also looking to update the standard for expand water quality testing throughout the state and a stricter standard for Perfluorononanoic Acid (PFNA at 13 ng/L.

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“While the Christie Administration has failed to adopt one new standard to protect our drinking water, their studies show there are serious problems. The DEP stakeholder meetings and presentations make it clear they are deliberately hiding information from the public. Instead of fixing the problem, they are kicking the can down the road until the next Administration. The slides show the DEP has the science of what the standards should be for 1,2,3 TCP and PFNA, but they are playing political science because of the Governor’s anti-environmental agenda. While DEP has all these concerns about chemicals in our drinking water and the need to expand testing, Governor Christie vetoed a bill to require DEP set stricter standards. These presentations show the science hasn’t changed at the DEP, just their spin, rationalization and lies,” said Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Sierra Club Director. “Even though they have a process in place to update standards, they still aren’t taking action because they want to continue siding with polluters over public health. What they do not want to admit is that for the past 7 years the Christie Administration has been rolling back protections for clean water, while holding up the science to make people safer.”

 

When the Governor first came into office he froze all rules and standards, including those recommended by the Institute. For example, he froze and then rescinded the standard for perchlorate. The Institute was also working on standards for PFNA, PFC, chromium and arsenic, but the DEP has failed to act on some of their recommendations. That is why we needed legislation like S2468 (Lesniak) that directs the DEP to adopt standards for 16 hazardous drinking water contaminants as recommended by DWQI from moving forward. Instead in a recent Senate hearing, DEP staff deliberately mislead the legislature to prevent the bill from moving forward. Even though the DEP staffs the DWQI and most of the recommendations come from the DEP themselves, John Grey falsely said that the state must check DWQI’s data. The truth is the DEP does the original work and DWQI checks them so he blatantly lied to delay action. He also said that DEP can’t conflict with the EPA. However, New Jersey law says state standards are stricter than the federal EPA standards, and always have been.

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“These slideshows make it clear DEP misrepresented the facts when John Grey testified on a bill to require DEP do its job. Grey falsely said that the state must check DWQI’s data and that the science on 1,2,3 TCP from 2009 has to be re-done. This was a deliberate lie because DEP staff works with the DWQI and make most of the recommendations themselves. They do the original work and DWQI checks them, which they did in both 2009 and 2016. These slideshows show DEP is clearly punting oversight and scrutiny by the legislature by spinning with alternative facts and hypocrisy. John Grey’s testimony does not pass the straight face test, because the new science agrees with the old data and nothing has changed,” said Jeff Tittel. “Even though the DEP knows there is a problem, they have deliberately mislead the legislature to stop them from doing anything. While the Administration has failed to update standards for more than a dozen chemicals, the problem is the people of New Jersey have been left to suffer.”

 

The DEP is currently considering new testing for Ethylene Dibromide (EDB) and 1,2 Dibromo-3-Chloropropane (DBCP) at all community and non-transient non-community water systems (currently most systems have waivers). New testing is also being considered for private well owners for 1, 2, 3-TCP, EDB and DBCP under the Private Well Testing Act as well as expansion of testing for arsenic into the South under the Private Well Testing Act. 1, 2, 3-TCP has been used as a solvent, cleaning & degreasing agent and could be found in paint, removers, and pesticides (as an impurity). Exposure by inhalation, skin contact, or ingestion can be harmful to health. The chemical evaporates from surface water and can leach through soil to groundwater. Arsenic testing is also found to be needed in all parts of the state. The last time New Jersey adopted a new standard (MCL) was in January 2006. It was found that arsenic has also expanded to additional counties in 2008.

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“While the Administration are considering amendments, doing studies and expanding testing, the problem is none of this work will even begin until the Governor is gone. The delay to act not only threatens drinking water, but means contaminated sites will not be cleaned-up as much as they should be. We not only need more testing on Ethylene Dibromide (EDB) and 1,2 Dibromo-3-Chloropropane (DBCP), gross alpha, uranium, and arsenic, but stricter standards. These chemicals are harmful to people and the environment. With more testing, we can help prevent a public health disaster, but we also need to lower the standard because findings of alpha radiation are frequently exceeding the standard. Now that more toxic materials are being found naturally and from contaminated sites, we need to take immediate action to address these toxins,” said Jeff Tittel. “We are also still waiting for DEP to adopt standards on Perchlorate, Radon-222,  Benzene, DCPA, 1,2,3-trichloropropane, perfluorononanoic acid and 11 other chemicals. The more the DEP stalls action on these chemicals, the more people are being threatened.”

 

The DEP is also considering testing at all community and non-transient non-community water systems for Perfluorononanoic Acid (PFNA), which is already under consideration for a stricter standard at 13 ng/L. However, we may not see anything happen until the next Administration.

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“The longer we wait to develop stricter standards, the more people’s health is at risk. By failing to meet over the past few years, the Institute has actually given the Christie Administration cover for not updating standards for drinking water. Since we have clearly fallen behind, that is why it is critical that we expand testing and set new standards because it may take a year or more to adopt them,” said Jeff Tittel. “Before the Christie Administration, the Drinking Water Quality Institute received awards in the past for the work they have done not only saving thousands of lives, but millions of dollars. However, under Governor Christie the DEP has not even adopted a single standard in seven years. As a result, everyday people throughout the state are drinking all kinds of toxic compounds.”

 

The Institute is responsible for setting the standards of acceptable limits for toxins and carcinogens in our drinking water. They look at health based risk assessment to ensure that the water we drink is safe.

 

“The more DEP delays action, the more people are drinking contaminated water. The Administration preventing the Drinking Water Quality Institute from meeting and stacking them with polluters, impacts all of us. By ignoring and withholding the science, the DEP has clearly sided with polluters and chemical companies over the people of New Jersey. That is why we need to expedite the DEP’s proposed efforts to expand testing and develop stricter standards. We also need the DEP to take action on the new standards recommended by the Institute on 16 chemicals to adequately protect public health and the environment,” said Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Sierra Club Director.

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