Trenton — Corporate sponsored legislation would shackle regulatory efforts to control chemicals in New Jersey’s drinking water, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Tomorrow, the state legislature will take up a bill to pack the Drinking Water Quality Institute (DWQI) with corporate members and specify precisely what type of scientific studies can be used for risk assessments on human health effects for chemicals.
Established in 1985 under the state’s Safe Drinking Water Quality Act, the 15-member DWQI determines the scientific basis for maximum contamination levels (MCLs) for chemicals in drinking water and makes recommendations to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to promulgate regulations setting drinking water standards. Under Governor Chris Christie, DWQI has become moribund. It last met in September 2010. At that meeting, its Health Effects Subcommittee recommended tighter levels for hexavalent chromium and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). The DWQI and its subcommittees have not met since then.
DEP did not adopt the DWQI’s last recommendations. Previous DWQI recommendations on perchlorate (October 2005), radon-222 (February 2009) and a number of Hazardous Contaminants (March 2009) have also been ignored by DEP. In short, the state has stopped addressing the growing chemical contamination of its drinking water sources.
Despite this regulatory rigor mortis, corporate sponsored legislation (A2123, Burzichelli) would add three corporate representatives to the DWQI. The real meat of the bill, however, would limit risk assessment only to certain types of studies which would exclude much of the science now conducted on chemical effects. It limits regulatory reliance only to studies using “Good Laboratory Practices” (GLP) but –
- New Jersey uses the same scientific methodology as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and EPA does not exclude non-GLP studies; and
- GLP, as its name imply, refers to laboratory studies which excludes human epidemiology studies as well as many other studies of similar or superior scientific value. Epidemiological studies, in fact, are even more relevant for risk assessment than GLP studies.
“Leave it to corporate consultants to use a term like Good Laboratory Practices to shield very bad chemicals in our drinking water,” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, a former DEP analyst. “Chemical manufactures are counting on the scientific illiteracy of our state Legislature to get their way.”
Wolfe points out that this legislative gambit is part of a broader, national effort to hamstring public health agencies from addressing a widening chemical footprint in our air, soil and water.
“This legislation has nothing to do with good science but everything to do with corporate shilling,” Wolfe concluded.
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