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DEP Undermining Toxic Site Safety and Right to Know

Date : Wed, 29 Aug 2012 11:04:32 -0400

For Immediate Release
August 29, 2012 Contact:Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club, 609-558-9100

DEP Undermining Toxic Site Safety and Right to Know Today the DEP is launching their "Boots on the Ground" program to identify chemicals in abandoned urban buildings.This program will keep first responders safe when working in or near these buildings during an emergency, however the administration has been weakening safety standards on toxic sites. This is another photo-op while they are weakening protections and undermining Right to Know.

"First responders in New Jersey have been on the front lines for some of the worst chemical disasters in our country from Chemical Control in Elizabeth to Napp and Heterene in Paterson next to a school.Within a normal year there are more than half a dozen serious incidents at such facilities.Our first responders and firefighters are our first line of defense to protect the workers in the plant as well as the community from any spills or accidents.They deserve more than photo ops they deserve strong regulations and enforcement to make their jobs safer and us too,"said Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club."The firefighters have to wear boots on the ground because the DEP has not cleaned up these sites and they do not know what they are stepping into." The DEP has not developed a priority list of toxic sites to identify and cleanup those sites having the biggest impacts on local communities.Instead of mandating cleanups of the worst sites under the Spill Act, the DEP is allowing this sites to continue polluting communities.The Spill Act gives the DEP the ability to go in and cleanup the sites and bill the polluters. The DEP has handed control of toxic site cleanups over to private Licensed Site Remediation Professionals (LSRPs) with weakened cleanup standards and virtually no oversight.LSRPs are private contractors who work for the polluters.The LSRPs write the cleanup plan, certify that the site has been cleaned and can give themselves waivers from the standards.

$1.24 million was taken from the Right to Know program to close budget gaps.This annual inventory of environmental hazardous substances throughout the state is a critical protection for first responders, letting them know what is on site so they know what techniques can be used to control the fire and whether the community needs to be evacuated.They have made it harder for citizens to find out what chemicals are stored at these facilities and an uninformed citizenry could result in more problems.

"The Right to Knowhas become the Right the NO.The administration by taking the funding and limiting public access to information is putting more communities in harm's way"said Jeff Tittel. They are cutting back on enforcement, allowing sites to sit there dirty for years without being cleaned up.Currently there are only two staffers to inspect the more than 8,000 sites that have been remediated and DEP do not now inspect sites that need to be cleaned.Without DEP inspections there is no enforcement on cleanup sites that are currently being remediated. Enforcement isnow calling people that violate environmental laws called customers.Instead of paying fines, violators can use alternate compliance methods such as planting trees or donating open space.They are taking the force out of enforcement.

"By weakening enforcement, not cleaning up contaminated sites, and letting polluters hire private consultants to clean up sites we are putting first responders in harm's way.The purpose of Right To Know is not just to let first responders know what is stored on these sites but to try and make the sites safer so that if there is an incident the problem will be less dangerous to begin with," said Jeff Tittel. New Jersey has not developed a chemical security program.It is pretty much a voluntary program written by the chemical industry, making the sites less safe. We are supposed to be moving to inherently safer technologies under the Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act, or the Bhopal Law.We have not updated or improved safety requirements at these facilities.

"We have an administration that is weakening compliance and enforcement, waiving or eliminating penalties for violations, and rolling back environmental regulations and safeguards.They are trying to cover it up these attacks by doing a photo op while they are putting our community and first responders at risk.This is part their overall PR strategy of trying to look like they are doing something when they are actually weakening protections.This is what we call a green scam," *said Jeff Tittel*.

Kate Millsaps
Program Assistant
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
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Received on 2012-08-29 08:04:32

New Jersey Sierra Club, 145 West Hanover St., Trenton, NJ 08618, USA
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