The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Bill Wolfe (609) 397-4861;
Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

Christie Deep-Sixes New Jersey Perchlorate Standard

"Red Tape" Review Runs Out Clock on Rocket Fuel in Drinking Water Limit


A multi-year effort to stem the spread of perchlorate, a chemical
found in rocket fuel, in New Jersey drinking water has been blocked by
order of Governor Chris Christie, according to documents posted today
by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). As a
result, the chemical found in about one-sixth of public water systems
will remain unregulated for the foreseeable future despite the strong
recommendation of state scientists that a strict standard is needed.

Perchlorate is a component of rocket fuel that has many other
munitions-related uses. A likely carcinogen, the chemical affects
thyroid function, especially in infants, pregnant women and their
fetuses. Perchlorate contamination of groundwater has become a
national problem, affecting more than 20 states in hundreds of
locations. The Centers for Disease Control has even found perchlorate
in infant formula. In New Jersey, the state Department of
Environmental Protection (DEP) found perchlorate in 11 of 67 public
water systems sampled.

On March 16, 2009, DEP proposed to enact a maximum contaminant level
(MCL) of 5 micrograms per liter (mg/L) for perchlorate in drinking
water. Under the Administrative Procedure Act, any such proposed
regulation must be acted upon within one year or the proposal lapses
and the regulatory process must start all over again. As his very
first act, Gov. Christie in Executive Order No.1 froze 12 listed
regulations that had not been finalized, starting with the perchlorate
standard. That freeze for "Red Tape Review" lasts until March 15, 2010
- just one day before the perchlorate standard lapses.

"Unless Gov. Christie and DEP enacts the perchlorate standard during
this one day window, then New Jersey drinking water supplies will
continue to expose thousands of unknowing residents to unsafe levels of
this toxic chemical associated with rocket fuel and military
ordinance," stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, a former DEP
analyst, noting that starting the perchlorate regulation process all
over again would take at least a year but probably much longer. "This
standard has been ready since last summer and it is business that Gov.
Corzine should have taken care of before he left."

Heavily impacted states such as California and Massachusetts have
enacted their own perchlorate standards since national standards by the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have been stymied for years by
opposition from the Pentagon. At her Senate confirmation hearing in
early 2009, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson pledged she would address
perchlorate but the EPA process remains in limbo.

"When Jackson headed DEP, she also vowed to act on perchlorate
beginning in 2006, then in 2007 and finally in 2008 but she never
acted. We fear a repeat performance of this shuffle," Wolfe added,
pointing out that the Christie Executive Order provides for a public
health exception which should have kept the perchlorate standard off
the list of frozen regulations. "Action by EPA may be the only hope,
however slim, because the Christie administration gives no sign that it
will support any public health protections going forward."

This upcoming March 10th, the Christie administration has scheduled a
public "stakeholders" meeting as part of its moratorium review on
pending perchlorate and other Safe Drinking Water Act rules


Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.