The Community Advisory Panel working with Roche Vitamins met on January 21, 2003. The meeting convened at 7:00 and was attended by Advisory Panel members and alternates Bud Allen, Kathy Belby, Jane Bullis, Judy Chamberlain, Peter Grogan, Mike Grossmann, Gary Meddaugh, Betty Merring, Claude Mitchell, Dave Pritchard, Doug Smyth, and Dr. Beecher Zollinger. Jim Brandl and Jeff Wanko attended for Roche Vitamins, accompanied by Larry Koehler. The meeting was facilitated by Steve Ross.

Approval of December 2002 Meeting Summary

The Panel approved the December meeting summary.

Status of Roche Vitamins

Jim Brandl reported that the sale of Roche Vitamins to DSM continued to move forward and was expected to be concluded during the first quarter of 2003.

Jim reviewed some minor incidents that were reported to the NJDEP hotline. Three of the four calls did not entail any violations of the plant's permitted emissions limits. He also noted that there had been a noise complaint by a Pennsylvania resident. The incident was investigated and was determined to involve Roche's Cogeneration facility. The company has retained a consultant to do seasonal sound measurements to determine the source of the noise.

Jim then reported that vitamin C production was shut down in December 2002 while Phase 1 of the new thermal oxidizer was installed. Vitamin C operations resumed in January 2003 but will be shut down again in March while the thermal oxidizer is tied into the operating systems. The new pollution control technology will be operational by March 31 and in regulatory compliance by the mandatory date of June 30 set by the plant's permit under the Maximum Achievable Control Technology regulations.

Odor Issues

Larry Koehler provided an overview of the facility’s wastewater treatment plant, which is the source of occasional cat litter type odors due to a fermentation process that occurs in the digesters, where fatty acids are present. The plant’s aerobic biological process takes sugars and starches and converts them into bacteria and pure water, as would occur naturally in a river. However, if discharged directed into the river there would be oxygen depletion which would be detrimental to aquatic life. The digesters have a dedicated air system that allows them to act as a “bioscrubber.” The front part of the plant and thickener are covered to minimize odors. Larry then reviewed the facility’s process for dealing with odor complaints. When odor complaints occur, the first point of contact is plant security, which receives the complaint call and sets in motion an investigation and followup process, and the filing of a Safety and Environment incident report. When appropriate Jim Brandl or Jeff Wanko respond to each odor complaint by contacting the complainants to follow up with them. Odor complaints have declined steadily in recent years, with 28 in 1998, for most of which Roche was responsible, but only seven in 2002, for only two of which Roche was determined to be the source.

In 1999 the company escalated its odor response program to address the upset conditions that could generate high loads to the treatment plant. By minimizing sludge generation the plant was able to achieve higher efficiency, cost savings and reduced odors. Following this program, in 2001 there were 18 odor complaints, but 17 of them were due to offsite causes.

Roche is not the source of any sulfur dioxide or hydrogen sulfide odors and historically has never generated an odor that reached Route 46.

On Christmas Eve 2002 a significant odor event, involving a sour smell, occurred unexpectedly under very low load conditions in the wastewater treatment plant. Ammonium nitrate was added to the system to rectify the situation. Jim Brandl said the facility would be on guard to prevent any recurrence of this situation.

In response to a question from Betty Merring, Claude Mitchell explained that the County Health Department tracks odor complaints from sources other than Roche, interviews all complainants, takes measurements and investigates the source. Jane Bullis said that people in the area have a better understanding today of the sources of the different types of odors in the areas, such as the landfill or composting operations, as well as Roche. Mike Grossmann suggested that Roche report to the public on the odor issue, to assure better understanding by its neighbors.

There was a consensus of CAP members that residents don't blame Roche for the odors that are a significant current concern.

Status of SEP 1: Warren County Air Monitoring Program

Jin Brandl reported that the WCAMP is now fully on line, with reports available on sulfur dioxide measurements for October and November. In addition, a preliminary report on volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) monitored on Roche’s property independently of the WCAMP for the period mid-August through mid-November 2002 is also available. These data will be distributed directly by EnviroPlan to NJDEP, Roche, PPL, Drs. Weiss and Weisel and the CAP’s chairperson. In addition, as soon as a reporting format is developed and approved by the Roche CAP and the Air Quality Advisory Panel, summary reports will be posted on the Roche CAP’s website for public review. Finally, each CAP member will be able to instruct EnviroPlan to conduct a random sample of VOCs on a monthly basis at Roche’s expense.

Steve Ross and Bud Allen reported on the Air Quality Advisory Panel’s Benchmarks Committee’s discussion of a summary reporting format. Bud noted that there would typically be an ongoing three-month lag in receipt of VOC results from the laboratory, which is the same lab used by NJDEP. He was hopeful that a representative from NJDEP would participate in the open house being planned for the spring to help explain the air monitoring results and their health implications.

Doug Smyth suggested that the air monitoring data for VOCs be compared with predictive models to see if the models were on target. He also questioned the possibility of synergies and interactions of different VOCs that might be present.

In reviewing the preliminary data on VOC measurements on Roche’s property, the CAP members noted that the reading for chloroform significantly exceeded the NJDEP’s health benchmark. In addition, the state’s computer model of chloroform concentrations in Warren County, based on 1996 data used by the National Air Toxics Assessment, was much higher than for other parts of New Jersey, including urban areas. These samples were taken on Roche property and not at the monitoring station at the Belvidere High School. Jim Brandl noted that Roche does have air permits that include discharge of chloroform and would expect low levels (parts per billion) to be present. To date only one sample has been taken at station no.1. Jim Brandl suggested that the CAP reserve judgment on whether this warranted concern until more results are collected from the WCAMP.

The CAP agreed that a suitable format for reporting summary results of the air monitoring program needed to be developed and requested that the Air Quality Advisory Panel recommend such a format, which would then be used to make results available to the public. This format would compare actual monitoring results with appropriate health benchmarks, so that some kind of assessment of the health implications of the air quality data could be done. It would also allow comparison between the readings found by the WCAMP with those found by NJDEP in other parts of the state.

Some CAP members felt that these summary reports, and not the raw monitoring data, should be posted on its website, since the raw data would be very confusing and difficult for laypeople to understand. Other members thought the complete data reports submitted by EnviroPlan should also be made available. The Panel decided to reserve judgment until its February meeting, when it will hear the views of the AirQAP and see the reporting format recommended by the AirQAP.

Status of SEP 2 Asthma Study

Jim Brandl reported that the asthma study would begin in January 2003 with four categories of participants, more than 80 of whom are in category one, comprised of students with doctor-diagnosed asthma who also have asthma symptoms. The study will be extended through the end of the school year, at Roche’s expense. The CAP requested that Dr. Weiss be present at its February meeting to discuss the status of the study further.

Status of SEP 3 – Community Alerting System

Jim Brandl noted that the NJDEP’s air monitoring website forecasts air quality using a pollution index for nine regions of the state. People can sign up to receive email alerts of unhealthy air quality, based on forecasts for ozone and particulates. The WCAMP data could be sent directly to NJDEP’s website electronically, using a dedicated phone line, so that DEP could use the WCAMP data in its pollution index predictions. The agency could then email and/or call concerned residents who register to alert them when unhealthy air quality is predicted. Then, in a year or so, the DEP could refine its model for predicting air quality based on the extensive data provided by the Warren County air monitoring program.

The CAP agreed with this approach. Public Open House

Steve Ross reported that the AirQAP is planning an open house and public meeting this spring and would welcome co-sponsorship and participation by the Roche CAP. Steve will forward the event plan now under consideration to the CAP for further discussion at its February meeting.


Steve reported that the Chemistry Council of New Jersey will hold its annual CAPFest event on February 12 and all interested CAP members are invited to attend.

The meeting adjourned at 9:45 p.m.