For Immediate Release
Bill Wolfe (609) 397-4861; Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
New Jersey Closing Its Nose to Vapor Intrusion Crisis
Vapor Intrusion Rules Cast into Regulatory Limbo as Horror Stories Multiply
TRENTON, N.J. - Rules seeking to accelerate indoor air sampling and provide more
rapid response to toxic vapors seeping into homes, day-care centers and
other buildings were recently set aside by New Jersey authorities and
the new administration of Governor Chris Christie has pledged to kill
them altogether, according to Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility (PEER). This regulatory gap occurs as new evidence shows
even more widespread contamination of groundwater and soil than
previously thought and as the state moves to pick of the pace of
"brownfields" redevelopment of contaminated sites.
intrusion occurs as contaminants in soil or groundwater emit vapors
that enter structures, typically through basements, sickening
residents. As widely reported, volatile organic chemical vapors from a
century-old DuPont factory have endangered over 450 homes and thousands
of residents in Pompton Lakes. Residents there were outraged to learn
that the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and DuPont
took years to notify them of the problem and test the air in their
New Jersey is one of the nation's most contaminated
states yet it still has failed to restrict high-density construction
atop hundreds of underground toxic plumes. Under governors of both
parties, New Jersey has pushed for quick and cheap redevelopment by
merely capping contaminated plumes under old industrial sites, a
practice call "pave-and-wave." As a result, the state has been buffeted
by a steady stream of lurid eco-horror stories as the chemical fumes
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The agency began to come to grips with the
indoor exposure danger and in 2005 adopted a "Vapor Intrusion Guidance"
document. That document was based on a "phased approach" - a laborious
but voluntary 10-stage process in which extensive groundwater and soil
sampling was required before indoor air was sampled. Huge loopholes in
that guidance were exposed by the Kiddie Kollege tragedy in 2006 where
60 toddlers were poisoned by mercury vapors in a day-care center
located in a contaminated former thermometer factory. It took DEP over
14 weeks to notify parents of the exposure.
Kiddie Kollege led
to changes in law and DEP vapor intrusion policy. In August 2009, DEP
adopted "Vapor Intrusion Guidance" revisions to speed up indoor air
sampling where "sensitive receptors" were involved (day-care centers,
schools, homes). Even this halting step has been reversed, however:
On November 17, 2009, DEP withdrew its August guidance on vapor
intrusion, returning to the flawed phased approach which leads to the
extensive delays seen in Pompton Lakes; and
- The Christie
administration Transition Report on DEP went even further, stating that
vapor intrusion rules are not legally required under the Site
Remediation and Reform Act and DEP should limit its rules only to cover
"required elements." If implemented, this stance would essentially
repeal official Vapor Intrusion Guidance.
appears to be burying its head in contaminated sand," stated New Jersey
PEER Director Bill Wolfe, a former DEP analyst. "There are hundreds of
contaminated groundwater cases that may be poisoning indoor air in
Garden State homes, schools and day-care centers. To avoid years of
delay in sampling groundwater and soil, DEP must mandate more rapid
indoor air sampling and abandon the Christie Transition
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