SUMMARY OF 5/15/01 ROCHE VITAMINS CAP MEETING
The fifth business meeting of the revitalized Roche Vitamins Community Advisory Panel convened at 7:00 p.m. on May 15, 2001. Ten members of the CAP were present: Chairman Doug Smyth, Jane Bullis, Peter Grogan, Andrew Mark, Betty Merring, John Negri, Totsy Phillips, Dave Pritchard, 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 Health and Safety Institute (EOHSI) 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 April Meeting Summary
The April meeting summary was approved, and is now available for public review and distribution.
RVI Compliance Status Report
Duane Campbell reported that a report on chloroform emissions results following installation of the chloroform decanter was expected that day and would be reported as an addendum to this meeting summary. In June, Roche is expecting to complete and submit its application for a facility-wide permit from the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection, which when approved will include its operating permit under Title V of the federal Clean Air Act.
Mike Adams noted that Roche would need the CAP’s recommendations on Supplemental Environmental Projects relatively soon, so that they could be incorporated into negotiations with the NJDEP regarding the facility’s Administrative Consent Order. He also reported that he had met with two site managers of industrial facilities in Pennsylvania and would meet with two others in May to discuss their interest in participating in Roche’s CAP or possibly an airshed-wide CAP. These meetings will include Pennsylvania Power & Light, Reliant Energy, BASF, the Oxford waste-to-energy facility, and Mallinckrodt Baker.
Status of Community Health Surveys
Thanking RVI for its support, Jane Bullis reported on the status of the Belvidere Environmental Commission’s community health survey, which she noted had proven to be difficult and challenging to implement. Jane distributed an abstract of the survey’s results and reported that, based on 1,748 responding households out of Belvidere’s 2800, there is an overall asthma rate of 14.4% in Belvidere and a rate of 21% among children under 18.
Noting that there are no documented survey numbers for asthma prevalence in New Jersey, Dr. Weisel said that Belvidere’s findings deserved further study to evaluate the scope and nature of the problem. He pointed out that Roche’s unpermitted air emissions were of chemicals that are not lung irritants, unlike the emissions from nearby power plants. Doug Smyth noted that Roche emits other chemicals as well.
Dr. Weisel said he has discussed the BEC’s findings with the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, which advised that the BEC should take the matter up first with the Warren County Health Department and then follow up with the state agency based upon the county’s review. Dr. Weisel also advised that Belvidere’s survey be discussed with the American Lung Association and the Pediatric Asthma Coalition of New Jersey. He explained that there are two basic asthma issues: is the prevalence higher; and are the symptoms more severe? The answers to these questions can be completely different. Now the challenge is to define the questions that need to be asked next.
The CAP then turned its attention to the status of the White Township health survey and Roche’s request for advice from the CAP on how to respond to White’s request for RVI assistance with that survey. Cindy Snyder noted that White’s survey questionnaire includes questions about smoking, which Belvidere’s did not, would be coded according to streets, would be followed up with distribution of water testing kits to streets that had health problems, and would definitely include health questions about pets and livestock. She said her survey was supported by the mayor and two of White’s committeemen.
Dr. Weisel suggested that White’s survey be coded according to census tract, that a line be added to allow respondents to indicate what kind of cancer they had, that the questionnaire be kept as simple as possible and focused on the issue of asthma prevalence and human health, rather than causation and animal health, noting that asthma is driven by lung irritants, unlike cancer and skin problems. He also recommended that White’s survey parallel Belvidere’s so that the results of both can be combined.
At this point, the CAP asked that the Roche representatives and the visitors from White be excused from the panel’s discussion of what advice to give Roche regarding White’s request.
Several CAP members expressed concern that the sponsors of the White Township survey had already reached conclusions about what the results should be, were driven more by emotion than by facts, and would not conduct their survey scientifically. In response to questions about the need for any more health surveys, Dr. Weisel said it was important to confirm that comparative asthma rates are comparable to those found in Belvidere. This would help greatly in getting action from the NJDHSS, the WCHD and the ALA. On the other hand, the BEC survey results were sufficient to identify that something is going on that is worth looking into.
Following this discussion, the CAP agreed, by a vote of 7-2 with the chairman abstaining, to recommend that Roche Vitamins support White Township’s survey providing that White’s survey parallel the methodology and questionnaire used by Belvidere. The CAP recommended that Dr. Weisel advise the sponsors of the White survey on the changes needed to comply with this condition. The CAP also agreed that they needed to review the final version of White’s survey questionnaire before advising Roche on whether to support it.
Supplemental Environmental Projects
In response to Mike Adams’ request for early input on SEPs that Roche should include in its negotiations with the NJDEP, the CAP identified three conceptual projects that warranted serious consideration:
Mike Adams said Roche will begin framing out SEP implementation approaches and budgets based on the CAP’s advice. This will include quantifying grab samples of RVI emissions and tieing them in with the recommended ambient air monitoring program.
The CAP also discussed working with school nurses on a study of asthma flare-ups, which could be tied in with the air monitoring program to evaluate whether bad air quality days are linked with asthma flare-ups. The panel agreed to discuss the matter of SEPs further at its June meeting and provide Roche with its advice at that time.
The meeting concluded at 10:10 p.m.
Action items for the future were as follows: