The Roche Vitamins Community Advisory Panel convened at 7:00 P.M. on March 19, 2002. CAP members present at the meeting were Kathy Belby, Jane Bullis, Judy Chamberlain, Andy Mark, Claude Mitchell, Gary Wassel and Stan Wilkins. Present from RVI were Jim Brandl, Duane Campbell and Paul Minehart. The meeting was facilitated by Steve Ross of Holt & Ross. Three guests were also present: Michael Grossman, Chairman of the White Township Environmental Commission; Dr. Stan Weiss of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey; and Dr. Beecher Zollinger of White Twp.


The CAP unanimously approved the draft summary of the February 19, 2002 meeting.


  1. RVI Corporate Structure: Paul Minehart reported that the Roche Group, RVIís parent company, had announced its intention to divest its non-pharmaceutical businesses, including Roche Vitamins. Paul said there were two options under consideration, one being to spin off RVI as an independent company, as had been done with Rocheís former flavors and fragrances subsidiary, Givaudan Roure, and the other was for another company to buy RVI. Jim Brandl explained that given RVIís position as the world leader in market share, it would not be possible for any competitor to buy or merge with Roche Vitamins, so the most likely purchaser would be either a customer or a supplier. However, no decision has been made regarding whether the company will sell the business or spin it off as a separate corporation, and no timetable has been announced for any action. Responding to concerns expressed by some people in the community that only the Roche Belvidere facility would be sold or even closed, Jim and Paul said that was not the case at all. In fact, there is a good chance that the plantís role and importance may be expanded in the next few years, subject to the outcome of internal plans and analyses that are now under way.
  2. RVI Environmental Scorecard: Jim Brandl reminded the CAP that he had committed to providing a monthly review of the facilityís emissions reports to the NJDEPís hotline. In early March the plantís ascorbic acid and sorbose dust collectors had come off, causing a slight increase in hourly dust emissions, though not a violation of the plantís monthly emissions allowance. The company is examining this equipment to determine what can be done to prevent this from recurring. In addition, a power outage led to a shutdown of part of the plant, including a carbon adsorber. While emissions did increase for a short time, they did not exceed permit limits.
  3. EPA Fine: Jim Brandl reported that RVI has been phasing out the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) but in 1997 the USEPA discovered that the facility had not been keeping proper records of the companyís CFC usage and its periodic checks for leaks in CFC systems. While there were no CFC emissions or usage violations, the faulty record-keeping in 1997 was going to result in an EPA fine of $219,000 sometime this spring.

Jim Brandl reported that after the February CAP meeting, Roche had a phone meeting with NJDEP to discuss plans for the air monitoring program in light of the comments received from CAP members and the public. It was agreed that mercury deposition sampling should be added to the monitoring station to be located at the Belvidere High School, using the stateís protocol. In addition, for the first three months of the monitoring program, all air toxics Ė not just those emitted by RVI - will be sampled every sixth day. After the initial three months, all air toxics will be sampled monthly and on a random basis under NJDEPís control, working directly with the contractor selected to do the monitoring program. The bid package for selection of that contractor would be going out shortly to six candidate vendors, with responses expected in April prior to the April 16 CAP meeting. Monitoring is expected to begin sometime this summer.

The CAP agreed that Chairperson Jane Bullis should review that bid package.

Jane said that she would be meeting on March 20 with the Belvidere High School science teachers, who are very interested in providing hands-on support for the monitoring station on the schoolís property and in having access to the data it generates. They are also interested in the establishment of a meteorological station as well. Jim Brandl explained that Scotts Mountain was the highest priority location for a meteorological tower, but if funds are available after the air monitoring program is established then a tower could also be set up at the high school.

Jane said she would like to share with the teachers the complete list of air toxics that will be monitored.


Dr. Paul Weiss, MD and Associate Professor at the UMDNJ School of Public Health, is an epidemiologist working with Dr. Clifford Weisel on the pediatric asthma study. Dr. Weiss reported that all of the necessary contractual arrangements were now in place to allow UMDNJ and Rutgers to move forward with this study, which would need community participation to be successful. The final step is approval by Rutgers Universityís Institutional Review Board. The study will have three stages:

  1. Identification of children who have been diagnosed with asthma by a physician and parental permission to enroll those children in the asthma study. The plan is to begin with a pilot test group of ten children, and then expand the study to include as many children as possible Ė up to 100 or more, so that the results would be as statistically valid as possible. They will be using data generated by the Belvidere Environmental Commissionís community health survey to assess asthma prevalence and to break down pediatric asthma by age groups, focusing on grades 4 through 11.
  2. Establishment of a user-friendly website for the children to use to report on their asthma symptoms, status, medications and their condition in general.
  3. Implementation of the air monitoring program, so that data on air quality can be correlated with symptoms reported by asthmatic children, allowing the researchers to determine whether there is a relationship between days when air quality is poor and asthmatic symptoms are most prevalent.

For the recruitment phase of this research project, UMDNJ will be targeting middle school and high school students. The first step will be to contact school boards, administrators and/or nurses to inform them about the study and seek their cooperation. Dr. Zollinger, who is a physician on call with the White Township school, suggested that school nurses could supervise the childrenís web reporting.

Once the schools have agreed to participate in the study, the research team will promote and hold a public meeting to explain the study to interested parents and residents and to seek support. Several CAP members suggested this meeting be held in May at the Belvidere High School, since all three towns send their children there. Then information material and a questionnaire will be distributed to schoolchildren in Belvidere, White Twp. and Harmony Twp. that could be brought home to their parents for signature if they agreed to enroll their child in the study. This survey would need to be conducted well before school ends, preferably no later than the beginning of June, so that children can be enrolled when school resumes in September.

Dr. Zollinger suggested that the schools supervise distribution and collection of parental responses to this material. Jane Bullis said she would send Dr. Weiss contact information for the school superintendents of Belvidere, Harmony and White Twp. Dr. Zollinger said that UMDNJ could expect 100% cooperation from White Twp.

The study would utilize a questionnaire that will ask how long the child has had asthma, when it was first diagnosed by a physician, whether the child was ever hospitalized due to an attack, and other questions. After the questionnaires are evaluated, the UMDNJ research team will go back to the parents of physician-diagnosed kids and ask them to enroll in the study. For children with asthmatic symptoms that havenít been diagnosed by a doctor, the UMDNJ team will recommend to the parents that they take their child to a physician for evaluation.


Steve Ross reported that Lisa Jacob and Cindy Snyder were unable to attend tonightís meeting and had requested that their report on the findings of their community health survey be deferred until April. Mike Grossman said that the White Twp. Environmental Commission was not sponsoring this health survey and had no involvement in its design or implementation, but rather that it was solely the result of a private initiative by Cindy and Lisa.

Dr. Weiss cautioned that asking people if they have cancer or tumors, as this health survey did, would almost certainly produce unreliable results. As in the case of the pediatric asthma epidemiology study, questionnaire results would be undocumented and misleading unless the medical conditions had been diagnosed and documented by physicians. Dr. Zollinger agreed.


Steve Ross reported that some CAP members and a member of the public had requested that CAP meetings be held on a day of the month other than Tuesday and that meetings be held elsewhere than RVIís site. After some discussion, the CAP members present agreed unanimously not to change the meeting day or location, in view of the very high attendance rate at all meetings to date prior to this one. However, the CAP agreed that the group should sponsor periodic community meetings to report on its activities and receive community input.

Steve reported that Region 2 of the US Environmental Protection Agency had agreed to participate in the new Regional Airshed CAP. He suggested that the CAP consider topics that should be the focus for future CAP meetings once the implementation plans for the four Supplemental Environmental Projects are completed. After some discussion the CAP agreed that the following topics should be pursued with RVI at future meetings:

The meeting concluded at 9:30 p.m.