Trenton —Without public announcement, New Jersey has released a report urging that the assessment of emerging chemical contaminants in drinking water be handled by a system developed by the state’s largest chemical manufacturer. This latest development caps a corporate campaign to kill a multi-year effort to address rising levels of unregulated chemicals in New Jersey drinking water supplies, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
The report is a product of the 16-member Science Advisory Board filled by Christie administration appointees to address the state’s entire portfolio of eco-science. Despite its broad charge, the Board has produced only a few fragmentary work products. This week the Board posted a report on “Contaminants of Emerging Concern” which was transmitted to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) back on September 20, 2012. The transmittal letter thanks a DuPont corporate executive serving on the Board for his “significant input.” The skimpy seven-page report concludes –
“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”
“Under this plan DuPont would be in charge of determining the public health impacts of its own chemicals polluting our waters,” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, a former DEP analyst, noting that DuPont has already pressured the state to water down its public health assessment of its Teflon-related compound known as PFOA. “New Jersey now conducts its environmental science so that the fox not only guards the henhouse but also weighs the chickens and sizes the eggs.”
A decade ago, New Jersey was a national leader in identifying a growing number of new chemicals and compounds in drinking water supplies. The DEP even developed a plan to filter many of these chemicals out of drinking water. Meanwhile, its 30-year old Drinking Water Quality Institute was working to set new or tighter standards for a number of these emerging compounds of concern.
Under Governor Christie, however, all that prior work ground to a halt or went into reverse:
- His administration rejected a PEER rule-making petition to enact the state’s own plan to filter harmful chemicals out of drinking water;
- The Drinking Water Quality Institute was disrupted and did not meet for more than three years. Its proposed chemical drinking water standards were all abandoned; and
- State environmental scientific work on virtually every topic has either been dismantled or channeled through this industry-dominated Science Advisory Board.
“New Jersey’s drinking water is steadily becoming more contaminated and the only solution being offered is ‘let’s go ask DuPont,’” added Wolfe, pointing out that the newly released 2012 report offers no solutions on what to do about the growing flow of unregulated pollutants once they are quantified. “We should all be embarrassed that this report is now what passes for environmental science in New Jersey.”
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