The fourth business meeting of the revitalized Roche Vitamins Community Advisory Panel convened at 7:00 p.m. on April 30, 2001. Thirteen members of the CAP were present: Chairman Doug Smyth, Rob Aptaker, Jane Bullis, Judy Chamberlain, Peter Grogan, Andrew Mark, Gary Meddaugh, Betty Merring, Claude Mitchell, John Negri, Pat Rivoli, Roy Uhlman, and Gary Wassel. In addition, three guests were in attendance, Cindy Snyder and Lisa Jacob of White Township and Dr. Clifford Weisel of the Environmental and Occupational Safety Health Institute (EOSHI) operated by Rutgers University and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Present from Roche Vitamins were Mike Adams, Duane Campbell and Jim Brandl. The meeting was facilitated by Steve Ross of Holt & Ross, Inc.

Approval of March Meeting Summary

The March meeting summary was approved, and is now available for public review and distribution.

Update on CAP Activities

Steve Ross reported that since the March meeting, the CAP chairman had written to NJDEP Commissioner Shinn requesting that he designate a representative to participate in a meeting with the CAP to discuss Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs). Chairman Smyth also discussed this request with a DEP representative, Donald Patterson of the agency’s Enforcement Division, and with several elected officials, notably State Senator Schluter, Assemblyman Lance, and Assemblywoman Myers.

With respect to the CAP’s interest in the installation of a Warren County air monitoring station, it was noted that DEP has replied that there is already an air monitoring station in Phillipsburg. The CAP agreed it was important to find out more about that so it could be factored into the development of the CAP’s considered recommendations to the DEP on SEPs. In this regard, Roy Uhlman provided an article titled "Monitoring Air Quality" from an American Chemical Society publication, Today’s Chemist at Work, which is attached to this meeting summary.

Mr. Ross pointed out the importance of coordinating all CAP contacts with public officials to assure that no unintentionally duplicative contacts were made. The CAP agreed that the chairman should take the lead on such contacts and that he or the facilitator should be advised of any opportunities for such contacts before other CAP members make such contacts.

Mike Adams reported that he had discussed the activities of the CAP with BASF’s Belvidere plant manager and that he was willing to brief the managers of other industrial facilities in the local airshed as well, if the CAP so desired. The CAP requested that Mr. Adams do that and agreed that it shared with him the ultimate objective of expanding the CAP’s mission to focus on airshed- and watershed-wide environmental impacts, issues and concerns related to industrial operations of Roche and other facilities. Peter Grogan said he would mention the CAP’s interest in PP&L’s participation to the Belvidere representative who would be attending a meeting this week of Warren County officials with PP&L.

Report from SEP Subcommittee

Mike Adams suggested that it might be to the CAP’s advantage to identify a range of suitable SEP options to propose to the DEP before Roche’s Administrative Consent Order is completed. He agreed to research this timing issue further and advise the CAP quickly on what he learns, so that if necessary there is an opportunity for the subcommittee to meet for a brainstorming session to develop a prioritized list of SEP options for review at the CAP’s May 15 meeting. In view of its importance, Steve Ross would facilitate the subcommittee meeting, which would be open to participation by other CAP members as well.

Mike Adams will ask Roche’s environmental regulatory experts to research and identify SEPs that have been approved by the NJDEP and counterpart agencies in other states, while Doug Smyth will ask Senator Corzine and the area’s state legislators to contact USEPA and NJDEP respectively for the same purpose.

RVI Compliance Status Report

Mike Adams reported that a chloroform decanter was installed in April and is believed to have reduced chloroform emissions to below permitted levels. However, this has yet to be confirmed by exhaust stack monitoring data, the availability of which has been delayed due to a flash fire that occurred and was contained in a drying unit shortly after the new decanter’s installation. The confirming data is expected to be available in mid-May. Significant reductions in methanol emissions have also been achieved.

Mr. Adams noted that the plant’s wastewater treatment facility had been producing odors recently because one of its digesters was inoperable, which placed unusual stress on the remaining digester. This was expected to be remedied shortly and odors from the facility would then be reduced or eliminated.

In response to a question from the CAP, Mr. Adams acknowledged that Roche was the eighth largest industrial source of Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) emissions in New Jersey and explained that the facility’s report to the USEPA included substances in addition to those with which it has had compliance problems. He suggested that Roche provide a report to the CAP on its TRI emissions at a future meeting. Steve Ross volunteered to send Jane Bullis an Internet link that would provide access to TRI data for Roche and other facilities in the area. Doug Smyth pointed out that there was a pressing need for an air monitoring capability that would allow the community to be alerted during times of peak emissions, so that people sensitive to such emissions could be advised to stay indoors, as in the case of ozone alerts.

Report from Risk Assessment Peer Review Subcommittee

Peter Grogan reported that he had reviewed eight independent scientific peer reviewer candidates, based on his own research and suggestions provided by Roche, and narrowed the list to four, from whom he had received proposals. From that short list, he recommended that the CAP select a team called Tox Solutions and Madison-Vector, led by Dr. Richard Davis, a board-certified toxicology consultant who is an Associate Professor at the UMDNJ, and Richard Vaccaro, an air quality specialist with 23 years of experience in the corporate and public sector. The CAP approved the selection of this team, subject to a reference check that Doug Smyth will conduct. Mr. Grogan will discuss the budget and payment terms with the peer review team and Steve Ross will coordinate with Roche to secure a financial grant to the CAP for this purpose. Mike Adams said he would instruct ERM to expect a call from the peer review team and to share with the peer reviewers the backup data from the risk assessment ERM had conducted for Roche.

Status of Community Health Surveys

Steve Ross noted that Belvidere was in the midst of reviewing the responses to a community health survey sponsored by the municipal Environmental Commission with funding from Roche and that White Township was also planning a health survey of its residents using a somewhat different survey questionnaire. Since these health surveys were relevant to community concerns about the environmental and public health risks of the area’s air quality, and the health risks of industrial emissions from Roche, nearby power plants and other facilities in the airshed, this was a matter that seemed relevant to the CAP’s mission.

Cindy Snyder and Lisa Jacob of White Township reported that as mothers they were concerned about asthma, cancer and other health problems being experienced by children, older residents, farm animals and pets and had developed a health survey questionnaire for their town after learning of Belvidere’s. While neither of them has an official position with any municipal agency, they said that their survey had been approved by their mayor and township council, and that Harmony Township was also considering utilizing their survey form as well. They said their questionnaire addressed omissions in the Belvidere survey by including additional questions regarding smoking habits and animal health.

Jane Bullis and Doug Smyth reported that the Belvidere survey had generated a response rate on the order of 33% and that the results were currently being tabulated. They will be consulting with Dr. Weisel of EOSHI to get his insights on how to design and interpret health surveys as they develop their report on the survey results. They intend to publicly present their survey’s results when available and, if those results suggest there may be a public health problem, they will use those results to generate action by DEP to assure that any questions or concerns about community health are addressed.

Mike Adams expressed concern that a series of uncoordinated community health surveys could generate results that were confusing, contradictory and/or misleading, and that it would be better for everyone if such survey efforts were coordinated under the aegis of the CAP. Ms. Bullis and Mr. Smyth said that Belvidere’s survey was already well under way and should serve as the basis for subsequent surveys and follow-on research. They urged White Twp. to await the results of Belvidere’s survey so the White survey could benefit from the lessons learned through Belvidere’s research.

Dr. Weisel agreed that ideally the community survey efforts now under way or being developed should be coordinated so they produce information that will be as helpful as possible in determining whether additional research or action is needed. He noted that there were flaws in both survey questionnaires, that White’s survey could be improved if its sponsors can wait until Belvidere’s is completed, and that a well-coordinated program of follow-on research could be planned and conducted following this initial round of surveys if they need to go forward quickly. As a general matter, he advised that White publicize their plan to conduct a survey so that the response rate is as high as possible. He also suggested questions about animal health not be included at this time.

Dr. Weisel noted that the asthma rate had increased greatly nationally and in New Jersey, and nobody in the public health profession can identify the cause. Pediatric asthma is very difficult to diagnose in children younger than five, because the tests needed to make the diagnosis can’t be used with very young children. He also pointed out that there was a big difference between asthma that was diagnosed by a physician and asthma that was self-diagnosed, because the disease was often mistakenly assumed to be present by people who suffer a shortness of breath. Dr. Weisel also pointed out that in evaluating health impacts so they could be compared with those elsewhere, it was very important to have demographic and lifestyle information (e.g., do they or did they ever smoke) about the people surveyed, to assure that comparisons could be made with validity.

Steve Ross recommended that White Township postpone implementation of their survey until after the next CAP meeting, on May 15, at which Belvidere will provide a preliminary report on their results. The CAP could then discuss those results, a possible regional health survey strategy, and Roche’s request that the CAP provide advice on how the company should respond to future requests regarding support for other health surveys. This recommendation was accepted by the CAP and by Ms. Snyder and Jacob. Mike Adams said Roche would provide the CAP with a financial grant to fund Dr. Weisel’s support for its development of a recommended approach to follow-on health surveys.

Next Meeting

The CAP’s next meeting will be on May 15, 2001, at which it will discuss health surveys, SEPs and a community outreach program.

The meeting concluded at 10:10 p.m.

Action items for the future were as follows:

  • Mike Adams to contact other industrial facilities regarding participation in CAP
  • Peter Grogan to discuss the CAP’s interest in PPL participation with Belvidere officials
  • Mike Adams to determine need for CAP SEP recommendations prior to ACO
  • CAP SEP subcommittee to schedule meeting if necessary prior to 5/15
  • Mike Adams and Doug Smyth to research SEPs approved by NJDEP, USEPA and other states
  • Steve Ross to provide Internet link to TRI data
  • Doug Smyth to do credentials check of scientific peer reviewers
  • Peter Grogan to identify peer review budget
  • Steve Ross to coordinate with Mike Adams on Roche grant logistics
  • Mike Adams to instruct ERM to cooperate with peer reviewers
  • Jane Bullis and Doug Smyth to develop preliminary report of Belvidere health survey for 5/15 CAP meeting
  • Roche to provide financial grant to CAP to fund independent environmental health expert (Dr. Weisel),