the staff of the Ridgewood blog
Trenton NJ, On November 2nd, The Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division found the NJDEP violated the law when it comes to radon testing. The court found that the DEP improperly revised rules on radon testing and mitigation oversight. The DEP made regulatory changes by holding certified measurement businesses accountable for the work of affiliates. Because New Jersey outsourced testing to over 400 people, the amount of NJ certified businesses in radon testing dropped by 200.
“The court slapped DEP for exceeding their authority on how they administer the radon program. The department violated the law by delegating authority to people who are not certified. This rule-making change shows the problem with DEP trying to outsource and privatize programs. Radon is the second biggest killer of lung cancer and is found in large areas of New Jersey. What is alarming is that don’t know how many people had testing done or if it was done properly,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “This court case shows the consequences of privatization and outsourcing.”
The record suggests that the DEP, has not, at least in recent years, required home inspection firms and other companies who employ radon technicians and specialists to obtain certification from the agency. Instead, their new rule change gave the oversight function to the business and community. One in six New Jersey homes has elevated levels of radon, but only 30 percent of households across the state have been tested, state officials say. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 86 percent of radon-related lung cancer deaths occur among current or former smokers.
“DEP’s decision to outsource radon testing caused our state to lose over 200 certified radon testing business. The DEP cannot cut corners on testing the second most dangerous chemical in our state. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that, when it seeps up from under a house, can pose health risks to occupants. About 21,000 people a year die of lung cancer believed to be caused by radon,” said Tittel.
According to Radon Data Inc, as a result of the DEP’s change in regulatory approach, there used to be about 300 certified radon measurement business in New Jersey, whereas there are now only about 29.
The case was remanded back to the administrative law court, except for the violations involving radon mitigation and sales of radon detection devices. The judges ruled they now could be subject to penalty enforcement
“DEP was outsourcing radon testing to people who weren’t certified and that is downright dangerous. It is critical that the department is held accountable because we cannot jeopardize the health of our families and our children with poorly done radon inspections. The DEP need to require home inspection firms and companies to employ specialists who are certified,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. Under Governor Christie, the DEP pushed for privatization and they exceeded their authority. Now the Murphy Administration has to listen to the court and change the rule. The court case should be a warning to Murphy Administration if they move forward with license site professionals to other forms of outsourcing and privatization. It is critical the DEP maintain oversight and control of important programs that protect public health and the environment.”