Summary of August 2003 Meeting of Roche Vitamins Community Advisory Panel

The Community Advisory Panel working with Roche Vitamins met on August 19, 2003.Present at the meeting were Bud Allen, Jane Bullis, Mike King, Gary Meddaugh, Joe Venesky, Stan Wilkins and Dr. Zollinger.Jim Brandl was present from RVI.The meeting was facilitated by Steve Ross.

Chairmanís Report

Chairman Gary Meddaugh asked Steve Ross to update the schedule allocating Panelist responsibility for arranging random VOC sampling and distribute the revised schedule to Panel members.

 

Gary reported that thank-you letters have been sent to the school boards, nurses and principals who supported the pediatric asthma study.He recommended that the Panel formally thank Kathy Belby at the September meeting for her leadership role in coordinating the studyís implementation with the participating schools.

 

Gary then reported on the letter to the Express-Times from a community resident complaining about odors that he believes came from Rocheís facility.Gary had called the resident and explained why it took a few months for approved meeting summaries to be posted on the CAPís website and why WCAMP summary reports have not yet been posted.The resident was frustrated because he smelled strong odors in the middle of the night in mid-July and late winter, contacted Roche and the County Health Department about them, was told he needed to contact NJDEP when reporting an odor complaint after business hours, and was very dissatisfied with how his complaints were handled.

 

Mike King said he had spoken with the resident on behalf of the Health Dept. and suggested he ask Roche for a contact to call at the facility in the event of a future complaint.Jim Brandl reported that the resident had complained of a burnt sulfur smell on a foggy night when the wind was out of the southwest, as confirmed by meteorological data from the Warren County Air Monitoring Programís Belvidere high school monitoring station.Rocheís security people investigated and didnít smell anything.Andy Tynan of Jimís staff called the resident back and referred him to the websites of the Roche CAP and the AirQAP for information about the air monitoring program.The resident wasnít satisfied with Andyís response.

 

Jim explained that in a river valley like this, in night-time foggy conditions odors can be picked up and transported by the wind from anywhere.In this case, the guards followed procedure and called the Environmental duty officer (Andy), who went to the plant to check on the odor complaint.Since it was very early in the morning, Andy didnít want to call the resident back at that time and risk waking him up.

 

Jane Bullis said the odors were probably from the White Township landfill, not from Roche.Mike King agreed, noting that the Health Dept. issued several citations to the landfill for severe odor violations, including the one detected by the resident. Mike added that there are several odor sources to the south.Joe Venesky said the Belvidere waste treatment plant was one.Stan Wilkins noted that Rocheís wastewater treatment plat was another.†† Bud Allen said he had checked with Enviroplan, the WCAMP contractor, and was told that the winds were from the north that night, not the south.Jim Brandl said he would provide the meteorological data from the high school to clarify this.

 

Gary noted that the resident had told him that he had several health problems before he moved to the area, including brain surgeries and seizures.The Panel agreed that Gary should call the resident again and tell him that, as a result of his concerns, Roche has improved its odor complaint followup procedures and in future will call him back as soon as his complaint has been investigated to report on the results, including talking to him in person if he wishes, any time day or night.

Approval of July Meeting Summary

Steve Ross noted the absence of a quorum and suggested approval of the July meeting summary be deferred until the September meeting.

The Vitamin C Production Process

In response to Joe Veneskyís request at the CAPís July meeting, Jim Brandl showed a process flow diagram illustrating how Vitamin C is manufactured.Noting that the human body was incapable of producing Vitamin C, Jim explained the six-step process of chemical reactions thatís been used for 65 years to make this essential nutrient.It begins by hydrogenating corn sugar (dextrose) to create sorbitol, which is then oxygenated to create sorbose.Microbes are then used to ferment the sorbose.

 

The last three steps are the most complicated and expensive part of the process, using advanced chemistry and chemicals such as toluene, hydrochloric acid and chloroform to extract and convert molecules that ultimately become ascorbic acid (Vitamin C).Thereís a new technology that replaces many of these chemicals with an advanced fermentation process, eliminating the use of solvents and their related environmental emissions while greatly reducing costs.

Stan Wilkins noted that the process chemicals of environmental and health concern seem to be chloroform, hydrochloric acid, toluene, acetone, caustic soda, and sulfuric acid.Jim Brandl said that DGA, a precursor to Vitamin C, also has toxic characteristics.Joe Venesky said he would like to see where all the vents in the process stream are, what all the pressures are and where the vacuums are.Jim said he would arrange a detailed walk-through and briefing on the production process for Joe and anyone else interested in participating.

Status of WCAMP Summary Reports

Jim Brandl presented the summary reports of air monitoring results that Enviroplan has developed, noting that they were now complete, only awaiting certification by NJDEP that the software used to generate them was accurately summarizing the detailed monitoring data.Jim noted the monitoring data over the past eight months has shown no exceedances of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (the health-based benchmark adopted by the AirQAP) for sulfur dioxide or fine particles (PM 2.5).Bud Allen added that for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) the health benchmarks shown on the summary tables need to reflect the latest changes made to the benchmarks by NJDEP.

 

Jim Brandl said that the VOC data collected at NJDEPís monitoring stations around the state and PADEPís VOC and SO2 monitoring data collected in Northampton County would also be included in the summary reports. Jim noted that the WCAMP was now monitoring for VOCs at the Belvidere High School station twice a month, once on a regularly scheduled basis and once on a random basis as scheduled by the Roche CAP.Chloroform exceeded the detection limit twice so far.Bud said it would be important to compare meteorological data with blips in the monitoring to try to identify the sources of the blips.

 

Jane Bullis noted that chemistry classes at the high school have done research projects based on the monitoring program.This year, they will be using the monitoring results and will be placing them on the schoolís website, which should also be linked to the AirQAP and Roche CAPís websites.She requested that the AirQAP be asked to suggest research projects that these classes could perform.

 

RVI Environmental Scorecard

 

Jim Brandl reported on eight events that occurred over the past month, six of which involved emissions, all within permitted limits.One of the facilityís carbon adsorbers has been experiencing repeated problems that have led to such emissions and that pollution control device is being replaced.Jim noted that the number of events reported to the DEP has been reduced substantially this year, which is hopefully a reflection on the effectiveness of the facilityís improved operations and environmental performance.

 

Public Outreach Opportunities

 

The Panel discussed plans for an AirQAP press briefing on the status and results to date of the air monitoring program.Jane Bullis suggested that briefing occur before the jointly sponsored community open house scheduled for this fall so that the publicity generated by the briefing could help encourage residents to attend the open house to learn more.The Panel agreed that Steve Ross should outline an open house plan for discussion at the CAPís September meeting.

 

The meeting concluded at 9:10 p.m.