LETTER Water Bill Held: DEP Lies Put People at Risk

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Today the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee held a bill to updated New Jersey’s Drinking Water Standards. The bill, S2468 (Lesniak), directs the DEP to adopt standards for 16 hazardous drinking water contaminants as recommended by Drink Water Quality Institute. Some of those contaminates include perchlorate, radon, and formaldehyde. The Institute is responsible for setting the standards of acceptable limits for toxins and carcinogens in our drinking water. They have barely met in the last half decade and even the standards they have worked on have not been adopted by the DEP. Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, released the following statement:

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“The Senate succumbed to John Grey’s lies and held this important bill. People in New Jersey’s health has been put at risk because of the failure of the DEP to adopt new standards on drinking water. John Grey is using alternative facts and siding with corporate polluters over the drinking water of the people of New Jersey. DEP staffs the DWQI and most of the recommendations come from the DEP themselves. They do the original work and DWQI checks them. Grey falsely said that the state must check DWQI’s data. Another lie he told is that we can’t conflict with the EPA. However, New Jersey law says state standards are stricter than the federal EPA standards, and always have been. This is the only Administration in state history that hasn’t adopted a new standard on drinking water. They’ve been holding New Jersey’s water supply hostage for the last seven years. These standards are vital to protect public health and safety.

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Grey deliberately lied during his testimony. The proposed standards from the DWQI each go to the Administrative Procedures Act but he said it does not. New Jersey’s Drinking Water Act specifically says that protection of public health supersedes any additional costs. Not to mention, the cost of filtration is always much cheaper than the health costs and public impacts from toxic chemicals. John Grey appears to be working for the Chemical Industry Council rather than the people of New Jersey and doesn’t care if our children drink toxic chemicals. In his testimony, Grey is deliberately misrepresenting state law and putting our families at risk. This is one of the most shameful testimonies by a DEP official to deliberately lie to a Senate Committee ad misrepresent facts that are directly related to protecting public health and safety.

“We need this legislation because the Institute has failed to do their job. They failed to release a report on PFOA. We also know that if they do release it, the DEP may not set the We are still waiting for the Christie Administration to act on PFNA, but they have failed to do so. The issue is with the Governor and if the DEP will continue to side with polluters or move forward to protect our drinking water from these hazardous chemicals. 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. This is an embarrassment not only to the State of New Jersey, but the people who care about protecting our drinking water.

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“This Administration has had a war on science.  They have removed scientists from key positions.  The award-winning Division of Science has been downgraded to an Office and a political appointee now heads the Office rather than a scientist.  The Science Advisory Board has been stacked with polluters, including DuPont. When the Institute does not meet or make recommendations, the polluters off the hook for paying for cleanup of sites or additional treatment of water supply. The DEP’s stormwater management, water quality management planning (WQMP), category one, stream buffers, flood hazard areas, and Highlands regulations have been targeted with the DEP’s proposed rules. The Governor continues to attack the Highlands region, which provides drinking water to 5.4 million people, over half of New Jersey’s residents, and our major economic industries.

“This legislation is important because it will force the Christie Administration to do their job and set standards for New Jersey’s drinking water. When agencies do not meet or boards like the Science Advisory Board Agency are stacked with polluters, it has impacts all of us. The Governor appoints 60% of DWQI members and the other 40% are DEP staff. Not one chemical standard has been adopted under this Administration. We’ve been waiting on some of them since 2005. Grey’s testimony today was shameful and it prevented an important bill from moving forward. The Christie Administration is sabotaging science. This is because the only science they care about is political science.”

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Jamie Zaccaria
Administrative Assistant 

New Jersey Sierra Club