The third business meeting of the revitalized Roche Vitamins Community Advisory Panel convened at 7:00 p.m. on March 20, 2001. Nine members of the CAP were present: Chairman Doug Smyth, Jane Bullis, Peter Grogan, Andrew Mark, Gary Meddaugh, Betty Merring, Claude Mitchell, Roy Uhlman, and Tony Wyhopen (sitting in for Gary Wassel). In addition, two guests were in attendance, Mike Grossman of the White Township Environmental Commission and Bill Rosebruck of the Warren County Environmental Commission. Present from Roche Vitamins were Duane Campbell and Jim Brandl. The meeting was facilitated by Steve Ross of Holt & Ross, Inc.

Member Recruitment

The meeting began with a brief discussion of the status of new member recruitment. There was a consensus that the CAP as presently constituted represented a good cross-section of community stakeholders and key county and local agencies. In view of the importance of maintaining continuity in order to work through the issues before the CAP as productively and in as timely a way as possible, the panel agreed that for the present the recruitment of additional members was not necessary. Guests and interested members of the public will be welcome to observe CAP meetings on a case by case basis.

Approval of February 27 Meeting Summary

The February meeting summary was approved. In addition, the CAP agreed that CAP letterhead should be printed, using as the return address that of the Chairman, Doug Smyth, at the Belvidere Environmental Commission.

Roche Update on Facility Compliance Status

Duane Campbell reported on the status of Rocheís regulatory compliance program. After a successful pilot test, conversion of all 16 of the facilityís fermentors has been accomplished which has dramatically reduced unpermitted methanol emissions, while a water scrubber is still being designed as a backup. As of March 2001, methanol emissions have been reduced to 40 tons per year on an annualized basis, compared to the 300 tons per year reported to the New Jersey department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). With respect to toluene, operational improvements succeeded in reducing emissions below permitted levels beginning in January 2001.

Roche has learned that it over-reported its chloroform emissions to NJDEP by an annualized rate of 5.7 tons per year; actual emissions in January and February 2001 were about one-third of those reported to the DEP (about 8 tons annualized rather than 22 tons) as a result of improvements to equipment and operational procedures. The new decanter that will be installed in the first week of April is expected to achieve further reductions in chloroform emissions that will hopefully bring the facility within the levels allowed by its air permit. If not, Roche will apply for a new permit for the minimum levels that the best available technology can achieve.

The CAP questioned why Roche was allowed to continue operating its facility while its emissions exceeded permitted levels. Noting that the risk assessment conducted by ERM under contract to Roche concluded that the emissions from Rocheís facility did not pose a public health risk, Duane Campbell explained that the regulatory system allowed facilities to continue operating in such a case, while mandating substantial fines for such out-of-compliance emissions. The administrative consent agreement now being developed would define exactly what those fines would be and the emissions framework under which the facility would be allowed to continue operating.

In response to Rocheís report, the CAP expressed frustration with the lack of a holistic approach to examining regional and community air quality and the extent to which the air people were actually breathing comprised a health risk. Noting that this part of Warren County was a non-attainment area for sulfur dioxide and experienced ozone alerts during the summer, which could compromise the ability of the most vulnerable residents to tolerate the mix of pollutants in the air, the CAP was concerned about the potential additive and synergistic effects of the complex mixture of air pollutants emitted by industrial facilities operating in the region when combined with Rocheís unpermitted emissions. The CAP also expressed skepticism about the accuracy of air modeling.

These concerns taken together lead to doubts among the CAP members and within the community as a whole regarding the model used in the health risk assessment. Therefore, the CAP renewed its request for an independent scientific appraisal of the ERM study by a qualified scientific consultant.

Roche agreed to fund such a peer review and the CAP established a subcommittee comprised of Peter Grogan and Gary Meddaugh to identify qualified independent experts, with the goal of developing a scope of work, budget and short list of candidates from which one could be selected at the CAPís April meeting. The subcommittee will explore the availability of experienced scientists at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

The CAP also requested Roche to develop a suggested schedule of facility tours related to the issues of community concern, so that such tours could become part of the CAPís meeting programs beginning in May.

Discussion of Supplemental Environmental Projects

The CAP noted that it had sent a letter to DEP Commissioner Shinn requesting that a portion of the fine money paid by Roche be dedicated to environmental projects that would benefit the community impacted by the unpermitted emissions, particularly a county-wide air monitoring program. Claude Mitchell reported that the County Health Department had received a preliminary response to its letter to the NJDEP requesting such an air monitoring program, and that response indicated that DEP was unlikely to grant such a request.

In trying to understand the reasoning behind the DEPís view and the agencyís general position regarding Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs), the CAP agreed that a letter should be sent to Commissioner Shinn requesting that he send a representative to the April CAP meeting. This would allow the CAP as the communityís representative to begin a dialogue with the agency regarding these public policy issues. Jane Bullis agreed to draft a letter for Chairman Smythís signature.

The CAP agreed that it was important to consider a range of SEP alternatives to determine which would be most beneficial to the community and allowable under EPA and DEP guidelines. For example, Mr. Smyth suggested an advanced environmental science class be established at the high school so that a better-informed, better-educated citizenry could be developed, with a much-improved capability for understanding and coming to grips with the air quality and environmental health concerns that the community is facing. The CAP also discussed an air monitoring program supported by independent scientific experts to assist the community in interpreting and understanding the results, and an environmental and public health study of regional air quality. The CAP again noted that DEPís participation in the panelís discussions of such alternatives would be very helpful in assuring that the CAPís ultimate recommendations are as well-informed as possible.

Doug Smyth, Roy Uhlman, and Jane Bullis volunteered to serve on a CAP subcommittee on SEPs, which will report back to the CAP at its April meeting on its findings and recommendations. In addition, CAP members who serve on municipal and county environmental commissions will raise this issue with those agencies and invite them to provide input on SEP alternatives as well. Chairman Smyth will also reach out to the state legislators representing the community and request their assistance in establishing a community dialogue with the NJDEP, using the CAP as a vehicle for that dialogue.

CAP Communications Plan

The CAP agreed to consider utilizing the website capability offered by Roche and Betty Merring volunteered to lead a communications planning subcommittee in considering how this should be done, as part of a more comprehensive program of CAP communications activities designed to keep the community informed about the CAPís work and to facilitate community input into that work.

Action items for the future were as follows:

  • Steve Ross will order letterhead to be printed for use by the CAP.
  • The Risk Assessment Subcommittee will identify a short list of qualified scientists, a budget and a schedule for an independent peer review of the risk assessment conducted for Roche by ERM, and report same at the April 30 CAP meeting.
  • Jane Bullis will draft a letter for Chairman Smythís signature to DEP Commissioner Shinn, requesting that a DEP representative attend the CAP meeting on April 30.
  • The SEP Subcommittee will develop a scoping plan for identifying SEP alternatives and present its recommendations at the April CAP meeting.
  • CAP members serving on municipal and county environmental commissions will bring the SEP issue to those agencies and seek their input prior to the April CAP meeting.
  • Doug Smyth will contact Congresswoman Roukema, State Senators Schluter and Lance, and Assemblywoman Myers and request their assistance in pursuing the CAPís request that a DEP representative attend the CAPís April 30 meeting specifically to talk about SEPís.
  • Betty Merring will convene a subcommittee to consider alternative communications activities that should be part of the CAPís community outreach program and report back to the CAP at the April meeting.
  • Roche will develop a suggested program of CAP tours of the facility for implementation beginning in May.