Petition Closed
Petitioning USEPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and 26 others

Protect the Raritan River! Don’t give taxpayer money to polluters!

The Raritan River is a river in recovery from years of dumping and chemical abuse.  It is also the longest river solely in New Jersey and home to hundreds of species including bald eagles, osprey, seals, turtles and striped bass. Located in the heart of a densely populated region, the Raritan Basin provides water to approximately 1.2 million people in central New Jersey, including our drinking water, irrigation water for farms, nurseries and golf courses. Unfortunately, the Raritan River Estuary is still disproportionately impacted by many of New Jersey’s more 25,000 known contaminated sites – and shockingly – Rutgers University is one of these many polluters. 

After over 20 years of effective advocacy, education and outreach by the grassroots non-profit Edison Wetlands Association (EWA) and our partners, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) recognized the need for a “regional approach” to identify and clean up the Raritan River Estuary.

In 2012, the USEPA proactively undertook a first-of-its-kind project in the nation, and allocated much deserved, yet scarce resources to start the Raritan River Initiative.  Unfortunately, their selection process, failed to identify appropriate conflicts of interest, and awarded the grant to Rutgers University, a known polluter and responsible party for illegally releasing toxic biocide discharges into the Raritan River not once, but twice. 

Rutgers University tried to cover up two 3500 gallon toxic releases of hazardous biocide from their laboratories into the Raritan River. The first occurred in October of 2011 and the second in March 2012, and were identical discharges from the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute (EOSHI) building in Busch Campus at Rutgers University.   

If not for a Good Samaritan and employee at Rutgers Golf course, Rutgers University may have completely gotten away with these toxic releases. The employee witnessed the destruction of the surrounding environment and Raritan River caused by the spill in October of 2011 but was told by his senior management that they would take care of it. 

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) was only reluctantly notified when Rutgers was confronted by the USEPA.  Rutgers was issued a Notice of Violation for the illegal discharge of a pollutant or contaminant into the waters of the State.  Since the NJDEP considers polluters as “customers,” there are no longer fines or penalties issued to polluters anymore!

As if discharging chemicals into the Raritan River wasn’t bad enough, Rutgers gross incompetency and failure to conduct even the most basic environmental research was made clear after EWA and several other nonprofits organizations and foundations hired Rutgers for two Raritan River sediment and water quality studies in 2011-2012. 

Rutgers signed an agreement to conduct this much needed research and a scope of work was agreed to by all parties involved.  Rutgers was about to waste more than $50,000 on sampling with no quality controls or scientific procedures. 

EWA’s team fortunately discovered the mistake in time, but instead of correcting the sloppy and shoddy quality controls and scientific methods, Rutgers withdrew from the funded sediment studies with little explanation and refused to return or provide an accounting for the bulk of the money. Their research was not scientifically defendable and the funding they were provided has yet to be fully accounted for.

Our hard earned tax money should not be trusted to Rutgers.  Please tell the USEPA there is no way to trust their research team with environmental projects as important as the one EPA is undertaking.

It is clear that Rutgers only cares about an additional source of money and does not care about the environment or the Raritan River. By allowing biocide discharges into the Raritan River and covering it up, Rutgers is a polluter no better than any other polluter who has decimated our Nations waterways and lands.

New Jersey has the largest number of Superfunds Sites in the United States as well as the highest cancer rate.  These two statistics are not accidental.  We need your help to send a message that we will not reward those who poison our environment and then cover it up.

Rutgers has proven that they are not worthy to receive any funding for projects related to the environment especially the Raritan River. We need to make sure the Raritan River receives the proper attention and protection it deserves. Rutgers is not the right entity for this project and we need to make sure they do not get their hands on the funding.

Tell the USEPA not to reward Rutgers for polluting the Raritan River. Rutgers should not be allowed to conduct any more shoddy studies with a $100,000 in taxpayer money.  

Please join us and take action! Demand that the USEPA not award this grant to Rutgers University. If Rutgers wants to identify sources of contamination in the Raritan River they need only to look in the mirror!

Thank you for taking immediate action to protect the Raritan River and American tax dollars!

Letter to
USEPA Administrator Lisa Jackson
USEPA Region 2 Deputy Director, Public Affairs Division Mary Mears
USEPA James Drummond
and 24 others
USEPA Nancy Spickofsky
Assistant Regional Administrator for Policy & Management, Office of Policy & Management Donna Vizian
Representative Frank Pallone
Representative Albio Sires
Senator Cory Booker
Senator Robert Menendez
State Senator Barbara Buono
State Representative Patrick Diegnan
State Representative Peter Barnes
USEPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck
NJDEP Commissioner Bob Martin
Associate Extension Specialist in Water Resources, Rutgers University Dr. Chris Obropta
USEPA Region 2 Branch Chief Richard Manna
USEPA Region 2 Director, Public Affairs Division Bonnie Bellow
USEPA Region 2 Deputy Director Joan Matthews
USEPA Region 2 Chief of Staff Lisa Plevin
USEPA Region 2 Chief of Grants and Contracts Management Branch Roch C. Baamonde
USEPA Region 2 Regional Water Coordinator Alyssa Arcaya
USEPA Region 2 Acting Chief Douglas Pabst
USEPA Senior Associate Director for Grants Competition Bruce Binder
Associate Professor, Department of Evironmental Sciences, Rutgers University Dr. Lisa Rodenburg
Rutgers University Interim President Richard Edwards
Rutgers University Senior Vice President. Finance and Administration Bruce C. Fehn
New Jersey Governor
I urge you to immediately rescind Rutgers University’s $100,000 award for the USEPA’s Raritan River Initiative Grant [EPA-R2-DEPP-12-01], and instead partner with the Edison Wetlands Association (EWA). The EWA is the only organization that has dedicated the last 20 years to fighting to protect and restore the Raritan River.

Awarding this project to Rutgers is a direct conflict of interest. The award does not meet the threshold eligibility requirements (40 CFR Part 30 & 31), and must immediately be deemed ineligible.

Rutgers University has demonstrated gross incompetence, lack of quality assurance and quality control in scientific research on the Raritan River. Rutgers has been cited by the NJDEP for the discharge of a pollutant or contaminant into the waters of the State.

Rutgers is a polluter and a responsible party to Raritan River’s pollution legacy and should not be rewarded with $100,000 in taxpayer money.

The USEPA should amend the award and disqualify or at least lower the score of the Rutgers application and subtract points from the Criteria 3. Programmatic Capability and Past Performance: Rutgers did not identify the grant failures under the Edison Wetlands Association’s SEP projects for the Raritan River Grant.

Rutgers should have disclosed the fact that they were awarded two significant grants to complete sediment sampling work and failed to complete the work.

Rutgers also has not fully accounted for $61,000 for both Raritan River projects.

The USEPA should not make any award of these grant funds and should demand Rutgers provide a legal statement of fact on the two issues regarding past performance on Raritan River related projects.

On October 28, 2011, a toxic biocide containing potassium hydroxide was discharged from the Rutgers University’s Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute (EOSHI) building in Busch Campus into the Raritan River.

The Rutgers employee who discovered it was told that he didn’t have to worry about the unusual foam and smell and that senior Rutgers staff would respond to the toxic spill and take appropriate measure to contain and address it.

After this incident, employees from Rutgers Environmental Health and Safety (REHS) came to investigate the pond. They were dressed in their normal uniforms, tan pants and REHS suits and jackets, with their truck parked on the side of the road. When questioned what they were doing, they simply stated that they were looking for lost golf balls.

Another toxic spill happened on March 21, 2012, when Rutgers personnel were supposed to be conducting a routine maintenance, instead they released the 3,500 gallon contents into the same stormwater drain and it followed the same path as the first spill. Again, REHS failed to notify NJ Spill Hotline as required by law when the incident occurred.

A Notice of Violation – which carries no penalties of any kind – was issued to Rutgers on April 24, 2012 by NJDEP due to violations for the illegal discharge of pollutants or contaminants into the waters of the state of New Jersey.

In addition to rescinding the grant, we demand a full and comprehensive audit to assess if hazardous chemicals at Rutgers many facilities are being properly handled used and disposed of properly.

In addition to their pollution into the Raritan River, Rutgers scientists have shown gross incompetency when conducting even the most basic environmental research. Through a legal settlement, the nonprofit Edison Wetlands Association awarded Rutgers University two grants totaling $61,000 to conduct sampling of surface water and sediment along the Raritan River.

Rutgers samples were disqualified by environmental experts and the lab technicians because most if not all the samples were worthless due to no controls or lack of basic quality assurance.

Competent researchers and scientists know quality assurance is considered to be the most important aspect for any scientific research and study.

Rutgers didn’t follow or even understand that protocols were necessary for having scientifically defendable data. Shortly afterwards, Rutgers withdrew from the EWA funded Raritan River sediment study without a second thought.

Rutgers never corrected or took responsibility for their mistakes with the research project nor did they provide an accounting for the funding they spent. The remaining grant money is still not fully accounted for by those entrusted with it.

Rutgers has shown exactly how they feel about the environment and Raritan River with shoddy research, lack of accountability for their work and other people’s money.

Rutgers attempted to cover up their toxic releases and now has the audacity to apply for and accept an EPA grant to identify pollution sources into the Raritan River. If Rutgers is really sincere about identifying sources of pollution into the Raritan River they don’t need a $100,000 EPA grant all they need to do is look in the mirror.

USEPA must carefully review the application submitted by Rutgers to determine if they disclosed their illegal chemical discharges and poor grant management issues in their grant proposal.

The above issues concerning Rutgers in this letter are of significant widespread interest to the Raritan River assistance community. I and many others want a safe and clean Raritan River. I do not want my tax dollars used to reward Rutgers a polluter of the Raritan River.

This letter should serve as the legal and factual basis for the US EPA to rescind the award from Rutgers and rescore their applications based on their past problems.

Additionally, I fully support the Edison Wetlands Association (EWA) and their 20 plus years of hard fought advocacy to bring accountability to polluters like Rutgers University.

The misuse of US taxpayer dollars is of widespread and national concern and the USEPA needs to consider that and not award this project to a polluter who has demonstrated clear disregard for the Raritan River regulatory laws as well as fundamental scientific quality control.

I appreciate your timely assistance on this important matter, as the Raritan River needs all the assistance and support it can get. Rutgers University has proven to be a poor steward of the environment and does not deserve this grant.

Many people use the Raritan River for recreational and subsistence fishing, boating, canoeing and kayaking as well as swimming.

A clean Raritan River is a right and the discharge of pollutants by Rutgers is a violation of that right because it acts as a barrier to prohibit the public’s enjoyment and access to the river.

The Raritan River is a beautiful river and she deserves our support as does the Edison Wetlands Association and their partners, who fight every day so that the Raritan River will once again regain her status as the “Queen of Rivers.”

Thank you and please take immediate action to protect the Raritan River by not rewarding polluters and those who seek to exploit the Raritan River’s resources for their own gain!

Rescind Rutgers University’s $100,000 award for USEPA’s Raritan River Initiative Grant [EPA-R2-DEPP-12-01],

Sincerely,