Summary of July 2003 Meeting of Roche Vitamins Community Advisory Panel

The Community Advisory Panel working with Roche Vitamins met on July 15, 2003.  The meeting convened at 6:30 p.m. and was attended by Panel members and alternates Kathy Belby, Mike King, Gary Meddaugh, Betty Merring, Totsy Phillips, Joe Venesky, Stan Wilkins and Dr. Beecher Zollinger.  Jim Brandl and Joe Gentile attended for Roche Vitamins.  The meeting was facilitated by Steve Ross.

Tour of Thermal Oxidizer

The meeting began with a tour of the thermal oxidizer pollution abatement system, which takes emissions from all existing pollution control device vents at the facility and reduces emissions further so the overall VOC destruction is greater than 98%. The discharge from the thermal oxidizer is run through a scrubber to neutralize any acid formed in the thermal destruction process.  The thermal oxidizer is a $7-million project.

Approval of June 2003 Meeting Summary

The Panel approved the summary of their June meeting.

Chairman’s Report

Gary Meddaugh reported that he had signed a letter on behalf of the Panel to NJDEP, advising that the funds remaining in Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) 3, the community alert system, be redistributed among the remaining SEPs, as the Panel recommended to RVI at its June meeting.  Jim Brandl said Roche had noted this recommendation in the company’s quarterly report to NJDEP on compliance with the Administrative Consent Order.


Gary Meddaugh reported further that he had received emails from Enviroplan reporting on sulfur dioxide levels measured by the air monitoring stations.  Jim Brandl explained that the reported levels did not represent exceedances.  For some reason, Enviroplan was reporting on five-minute concentrations of SO2 whenever they approached a pre-set percentage of the federal guideline.  Dr. Zollinger asked whether anyone would investigate any exceedances that might occur to compare them with meteorological data in an effort to determine the source.  Steve Ross said the AirQAP would be looking into that, noting that meteorological data was being collected at Belvidere High School as part of the WCAMP.

Gary Meddaugh also noted that he would be sending thank-you letters to school nurses involved in the SEP 2 asthma study, with copies to school boards and principals.  Kathy Belby will draft that letter for him.

Environmental Scorecard

Jim Brandl said that the number of incidents reported to EPA’s hotline was decreasing.  Three events worth noting occurred in May 2003.  The first was a 2,000-pound release of Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) due to a dust collector problem.  The second was the deliberate bypassing of the thermal oxidizer three times to test what releases would have occurred had a real system failure occurred.  All releases were within permitted limits.  The third event was a $20,000 fine imposed by EPA for not reporting nitrate concentrations from the facility’s wastewater treatment plant, even though the release itself wasn’t a violation and even though EPA hadn’t notified the plant that it was required to report such releases.


Joe Venesky asked whether the environmental scorecard report could be posted on the CAP’s website.  Jim replied that the form was already being provided to Belvidere and White Township.  Betty Merring thought the reports were too confusing as they’re currently not written to be understandable by laypeople.  Joe suggested the report be attached to the CAP’s meeting summaries routinely and Jim agreed.


Issues for CAP Focus Going Forward


Gary Meddaugh noted that the CAP had previously identified several new issues that it should start focusing on and opened the floor to continuing that discussion. 


Public Outreach:  Joe Venesky suggested that Roche provide a monthly report in the River Bend newspaper on what’s going on at the plant in terms of operating status, accomplishments and activities of interest.  Dr. Zollinger and Totsy Phillips thought the Warren County Reporter would be a better outlet for such reports.


Steve Ross suggested that the whole topic of how to communicate with the public about what’s going on at Roche and at the CAP might be a useful area of focus.  Joe Venesky noted that public meetings weren’t very effective, since most people don’t attend them.  He suggested that published material would be a better way to keep people informed.


Jim Brandl noted that Roche’s sale to DSM would soon be completed, which would be an appropriate time to report to the community about it.  In addition, Roche could attend municipal and environmental commission meetings on a regular basis to provide such reports. 


Dr. Zollinger suggested that it would be appropriate for the CAP itself to do more to report to the public on its activities.  The Panel agreed that fact sheets on topics of interest, such as SEP 2 and the WCAMP, should be distributed to the schools.  Other key stakeholder audiences also needed to be identified, so information could be sent to them as well.


The CAP agreed that the whole topic of how to communicate better should be an ongoing focus of consideration at future meetings. 


Land Use: Gary Meddaugh reminded the Panel that Jane Bullis had urged that land use be a future focus, such as development of a nature trail from the ballfields in Belvidere through Roche’s property.


Aquatic Impacts: Stan Wilkins suggested that the impacts of Roche’s operations on groundwater and the Delaware River should also be a focus, and the Panel agreed.  Jim Brandl said that the Philadelphia Academy of Sciences had done a survey of the river upstream and downstream of Roche’s property and found no facility-related impacts.  He suggested Roche arrange for a presentation to the CAP on that report.


Status of VOC Emissions from Roche:  Gary Meddaugh suggested that Roche report to the CAP monthly on its releases of toluene, methanol and chloroform, as it used to do.  Jim Brandl agreed.


Waste Generation at Roche:  Jim Brandl suggested that Roche could report to the CAP on its progress in reducing the generation of hazardous and solid waste.  Stan Wilkins said he would definitely like to hear about that.  Jim said those reports could include an update on Roche’s Toxic Release Inventory results, comparing them with those of other facilities in the area.  Betty Merring said she was very interested in that.


Risk Management Program Status:  Gary Meddaugh said he would like an update on the status of Roche’s Risk Management Plan for managing hazardous materials.


The Vitamin C Process:  Joe Venesky requested development of a process flow chart showing how Vitamin C is made, the chemicals used in the process, the sequence of steps in the production process, and areas where emissions could occur.  Jim Brandl said he could provide a schematic on the process and a presentation that walks the CAP through the schematic.

Status of the Warren County Air Monitoring Program

Jim Brandl reported that the monthly summary reports on WCAMP results would be available in August and will include data from Northampton County as well.  Those reports will be posted on the AirQAP’s website at

Allocation of SEP 3 Funds

Jim reported that $68,000 remained in the SEP 3 budget.  He noted that SEP 1 was currently under-funded by $20,000, due to the cost of generating the monthly summaries of WCAMP results; the SEP 2 asthma study was currently $85,000 over budget; and the AirQAP, funded by SEP 4, is projected to be over budget by $30,000-$40,000.


Jim suggested the SEP 3 funds be divided equally among the other three SEPs.  Additional funding might come through any additional fines that DEP might levy based on reportable incidents for which Roche had offered an affirmative defense, but about which DEP had yet to respond.  Betty Merring noted that the AirQAP might be able to acquire funding from other sources, either from participating companies or participating regulatory agencies, and therefore she thought the remaining SEP 3 funds should be allocated only to SEPs 1 and 2.  Since it wasn’t certain that such additional funding would actually become available, Jim suggested that $20,000 could be allocated now for SEP 1, with the balance to be used as needed in the future.  The CAP agreed.


The meeting was adjourned at 9:18 P.M.