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Department of Environmental Protection Gives Green Light to Elcon Hazardous Waste Treatment Facility Near the Delaware River in Falls

Department of Environmental Protection Gives Green Light to Elcon Hazardous Waste Treatment Facility Near the Delaware River in Falls | Public Health & Safety | Scoop.it

 

Circle May 2019 on the calendar. By then, residents of Lower Bucks and Northern Burlington counties should know whether the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has given the green light for a hazardous waste treatment facility to be built near the Delaware River in Falls.

 

Proposed by Elcon Recycling Services, the plant would process between 150,000 to 210,000 tons of chemicals and pharmaceutical waste each year, according to the company’s past filings. The company aims to build the facility on a 23-acre site in the Keystone Industrial Port Complex, an approximately 3,000-acre industrial park encompassing the former footprint of U.S. Steel’s Fairless Works operation.

 

The DEP announced Thursday afternoon that Elcon cleared a key part of the application process, in which the department reviewed its application materials to ensure all necessary materials were included. Elcon previously failed to clear that hurdle twice, when the DEP announced the materials were “incomplete” in May (read “Elcon Reapplies to DEP for Toxic Waste Facility Located Next to Delaware River”; http://sco.lt/88Ru3l) and October 2017.

 

The third time proved to be the charm for Elcon, as it resubmitted the materials again in late May. Now that the DEP has all necessary materials, Elcon’s application will “undergo a 10-month technical review which will include opportunities for public participation,” according to the DEP.

 

Environmental groups and some local towns [including Newtown Township: read “Elcon Toxic Waste Incinerator: Déjà vu All Over Again”; http://www.johnmacknewtown.info/blog/?viewDetailed=201805220106] have voiced opposition to the facility, calling it an incinerator and saying they fear it could pollute the air or become flooded and contaminate the Delaware River. Elcon officials call the plant’s technology “thermal oxidization” and say it will limit toxic releases from the facility to safe amounts.

 

The controversial proposal in Lower Bucks will now undergo a 10 month technical review by Pennsylvania.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

According to Newtown's anti-Elcon resolution, "the incinerator treatment process will produce over 39 tons of air emissions containing, among other pollutants, nitrous oxide (NOS), ammonia (NH3), hydrochloric acid (HCL), volatile organic compounds (VOC), sulfur oxide (SOX) and total particulate matter;  the Philadelphia Water Department wrote in their testimony to the Department of Environmental Protection to decline permit to build in this location. The PWD stated that if a leak or spill were to occur, it would be a Catastrophic Event that would affect millions of people's water supply and would cause the termination of drinking water for an indeterminate amount of time.

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These Scoops are excerpts from articles published in local newspapers and other sources. They focus on public health issues such as opioid addiction, water and air quality, emergency services, traffic, crime, etc. Any opinions and "insights" appended to these article summaries are solely those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
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As EPA Launches National PFAS Plan, Pennsylvania Says Its People “Can’t Wait” for Federal Government & Launches Its Own Plan to Set Lower Health Limits for PFOA and PFOS

As EPA Launches National PFAS Plan, Pennsylvania Says Its People “Can’t Wait” for Federal Government & Launches Its Own Plan to Set Lower Health Limits for PFOA and PFOS | Public Health & Safety | Scoop.it

Pennsylvania will begin the process of setting its own health limits for two toxic PFAS chemicals because it’s unclear when the federal government will set national standards, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said late Thursday [February 14, 2019].

 

Responding to Thursday’s announcement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that it will begin the process of setting maximum contaminant limits (MCLs) for PFOA and PFOS this year (listen to the briefing call), the DEP committed for the first time to laying the groundwork for a statewide standard for the chemicals.

 

“Pennsylvania will begin the process to set an MCL for PFOS and PFOA,” DEP spokesman Neil Shader wrote in an email. “To that end, the Department of Environmental Protection will be moving forward with a Request for Proposals to hire a consulting toxicologist to evaluate existing health studies with the ultimate goal of establishing a protective MCL for the state.”

 

Although the administration of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf set up an “Action Team” of state officials to respond to PFAS contamination last September, it did not say then that setting a MCL would be part of the team’s mandate, and has not publicly set that goal until now.

 

Advocates for stricter limits on PFAS chemicals in drinking water say that MCLs are essential to protecting public health, and have questioned why Wolf’s team did not name the establishment of those limits as its primary goal.

 

Shader said officials have not decided what Pennsylvania’s MCL level might be but said it was likely to be lower than the EPA’s current health advisory limit of 70 parts per trillion. DEP is legally required to base a recommended MCL on “sound science” and to reach that conclusion independently of any other state or federal agency, he said.

 

Growing evidence of the PFAS risk to public health and the EPA’s longstanding failure to set national MCLs has prompted some states including New Jersey to set their own limits that are much stricter than the EPA’s health advisory level [see chart].

 

Mark Cuker, an environmental attorney, and member of the grassroots group Buxmont Coalition for Safer Water, says Pennsylvania should act quickly by consulting the science produced by New Jersey’s Drinking Water Quality Institute, a panel of scientists that advises the state’s DEP. The DWQI recommended much lower safety standards for PFOA and PFOS — 14 ppt and 13 ppt, respectively, than the EPA’s current advisory of 70 parts per trillion.

 

State Sen. Maria Collett (D-Bucks and Montgomery) welcomed the state’s PFAS plan but said she would continue to promote her two bills that would set an MCL for some of the chemicals and declare them a hazardous substances [Read “PA State Sen. Maria Collett to Introduce Bills to Lower Safe Levels of PFAS in Drinking Water”].

johnmacknewtown's insight:

Further Reading:

  • “Perfluorinated Compounds Detected in Newtown Township's Water Supply”; http://sco.lt/70ujU9
  • “Senators From BOTH Parties Press EPA to Develop Enforceable Standards Limiting PFOA and PFOS in Drinking Water”; http://sco.lt/8NQUwz
  • “U.S. House Launches Bipartisan PFAS Task Force That Promises to Set Formal Drinking Water Standard for PFAS”; http://sco.lt/6JjI4P
  • “NJ Department of Environmental Protection Set to Regulate PFOS, PFOA in Drinking Water. Safe Limits Will Be Much Lower Than Recommended by the PA DEP.”; http://sco.lt/63DJ8T
  • “PFAS From Tainted Water on Military Bases My Be Spreading to Other Towns in Bucks, Montco”; http://sco.lt/7Lillp
  • “EWG Report: Perfluorinated Pollutant (PFAS) Contamination of Water Spreading”; http://sco.lt/4xLDiD
  • “EPA, Department of Defense, White House Conspired to Put Clamps on Release of PFAS Safety Limits for Drinking Water, Says Union of Concerned Scientists”; http://sco.lt/87oNHN
  • “U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances Documents Call EPA’s PFAS Safety Numbers Into Question”; http://sco.lt/7umDCb
  • “Lower Makefield, Not Satisfied with PA American Water's Paid Ad, Seeks More Answers, Assurances in Wake of Water Emergency”; http://sco.lt/5Ojmbp
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Use of Strong Opioids by Americans to Treat Noncancer Pain More Than Doubled Since 2001

Use of Strong Opioids by Americans to Treat Noncancer Pain More Than Doubled Since 2001 | Public Health & Safety | Scoop.it

Prompted by a call from the National Academy of Medicine, then the Institute of Medicine, for improved national data on pain, a recent study provides new insights concerning pain trends and opioid use for pain management. Researchers used data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) to examine the impact of pain-related interference, a measure of pain’s impact on normal work activities, on people’s health status and health care use. MEPS is a nationally representative survey of the U.S. civilian, noninstitutionalized population.

 

Researchers showed that the number of U.S. adults age 18 and older suffering from at least one painful health condition increased substantially from 120.2 million (32.9 percent) in 1997/1998 to 178 million (41 percent) in 2013/2014. Furthermore, the use of strong opioids, like fentanyl, morphine, and oxycodone, for pain management among adults with severe pain-related interference more than doubled from 4.1 million (11.5 percent) in 2001/2002 to 10.5 million (24.3 percent) in 2013/2014. These are the findings of a comprehensive analysis of 18-year trends showing changes in the overall rates of noncancer pain prevalence and management.

 

The study showed that by 2013/2014, about one-third of individuals (68 million) with a painful health condition reported moderate or severe pain-related interference with normal work activities. The analysis of MEPS data looked specifically at noncancer painful health conditions.

 

The researchers also found that people with severe pain-related interference were more likely to use strong opioids, to have had four or more opioid prescriptions, and to have visited a doctor’s office six or more times for their pain compared to those with minimal pain-related interference.

 

As with other studies, this analysis showed an increase in the overall use of opioids between 1997 and 2014, with a peak use observed between 2005 and 2012. Since 2012, however, there has been a slight decrease in opioid use tied to a reduction in use of weak opioids and in the number of patients reporting only one opioid prescription

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Temple Researcher, Local Group Awarded Grant to Support Research Into Health Effects of PFAS in Drinking Water

Temple Researcher, Local Group Awarded Grant to Support Research Into Health Effects of PFAS in Drinking Water | Public Health & Safety | Scoop.it

A Temple University researcher has received a nearly $60,000 grant from the California-based Water Foundation to support a local environmental organization’s work in area communities affected by PFAS, as well as research into the toxic chemicals.

 

The Water Foundation’s work mainly focuses on water management in the West, but the grant was awarded to Dr. Resa M. Jones, associate professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Temple University’s College of Public Health, who is partnering with the Buxmont Coalition for Safer Water.

 

The organization was formed last year by Hope Grosse and Joanne Stanton, who both grew up in Warminster near the former Naval Air Warfare Center and have been outspoken since the chemicals were found in drinking water in communities around the former base and two others nearby in Horsham.

 

Stanton said she and Gross are excited about the grant and the partnership with Jones. It will allow the organization to build its website, develop educational materials and do other work toward its vision for area communities to have “clean and safe drinking water, free from PFAS and other toxic chemicals; and for residents affected by local water contamination to have access to preventive health care including blood testing and biomonitoring.”

 

The grant also will support research by Jones on exposures and health effects in area communities. Jones said they want to contribute to and expand on existing research into health effects that already have been linked to the chemicals, as well as explore new or unique outcomes. They also plan to take into account factors like the length of time area residents were exposed, and at what levels.

 

“There’s been a lack of thinking about exposure across the lifespan,” Jones said. “Because of the cumulative impact of PFAS, we need to be considering that when looking at health and health-related outcomes. There are some challenges to that, but that would be something that we definitely want to be measuring.”

 

They hope to begin in the next several months.

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Association of Pharmaceutical Industry Marketing of Opioid Products With Mortality From Opioid-Related Overdoses

Association of Pharmaceutical Industry Marketing of Opioid Products With Mortality From Opioid-Related Overdoses | Public Health & Safety | Scoop.it

Question 

Importance  Prescription opioids are involved in 40% of all deaths from opioid overdose in the United States and are commonly the first opioids encountered by individuals with opioid use disorder. It is unclear whether the pharmaceutical industry marketing of opioids to physicians is associated with mortality from overdoses.

 

To what extent is pharmaceutical industry marketing of opioids to physicians associated with subsequent mortality from prescription opioid overdoses?

Findings 

In this population-based, cross-sectional study, $39.7 million in opioid marketing was targeted to 67 507 physicians across 2208 US counties between August 1, 2013, and December 31, 2015. Increased county-level opioid marketing was associated with elevated overdose mortality 1 year later, an association mediated by opioid prescribing rates; per capita, the number of marketing interactions with physicians demonstrated a stronger association with mortality than the dollar value of marketing.

Meaning 

The potential role of pharmaceutical industry marketing in contributing to opioid prescribing and mortality from overdoses merits ongoing examination.

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Residents Rekindle Elcon Waste Facility Opposition

Residents Rekindle Elcon Waste Facility Opposition | Public Health & Safety | Scoop.it

Fallsington Friends Meeting has seen its share of gatherings over the centuries. But its latest one had a definite modern twist, as about 60 area residents turned out Wednesday night to organize opposition to Elcon, a hazardous waste treatment facility proposed to be built in the nearby Keystone Industrial Port Complex.

 

The meeting was the latest in a now four-year controversy, which could reach its conclusions in the coming months as the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection nears a May deadline to consider a development application put forth by Elcon Recycling Services, LLC. The company is seeking to build the facility on a 23-acre parcel of old U.S. Steel land, treating up to 193,000 tons of hazardous and pharmaceutical waste annually through a process called thermal oxidization, which opponents liken to simple incineration.

 

Wednesday’s meeting primarily afforded environmental groups such as organizer Bucks POWA (Protect our Water & Air) and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network a chance to reiterate their concerns about potential air pollution, water contamination and accidents involving the two or three dozen trucks that would bring waste water to the site each day.

 

“It’s in an area that is already inundated with pollution and water risk,” said John Brodowski, deputy mayor of Bordentown City, which is located about two miles from the site. “We have to stop it.”

 

Lise Baxter, co-founder of POWA, said the organization had also hired environmental attorney Mike Ewall, a Bensalem native, to craft a local air ordinance that could prevent or restrict Elcon’s operation. Ewall said townships and counties have the ability to pass air ordinances that are stricter than state or federal regulations.

 

“In Baltimore they’re about to pass one that would force two existing incinerators to close down,” Ewall said, adding the “missing ingredient in Falls (is) local officials who are willing to stand up to local polluters.”

 

Baxter said the group also intends to prepare an ordinance for the county and would soon be reaching out to county officials. Speakers Wednesday urged attendees to also contact township and county officials, along with their local state lawmakers.

 

[In 2016, Newtown Township - among others - passed a resolution opposing this plant due to "danger" to drinking water. See here for more information about that.]

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Senators From BOTH Parties Press EPA to Develop Enforceable Standards Limiting PFOA and PFOS in Drinking Water

Senators From BOTH Parties Press EPA to Develop Enforceable Standards Limiting PFOA and PFOS in Drinking Water | Public Health & Safety | Scoop.it

One-fifth of the Senate is pressing the Environmental Protection Agency to do more to prevent two toxic chemicals from getting into Americans' drinking water — after a report last week indicating the agency is not going to restrict them under the Safe Drinking Water Act (read “Report: EPA Won't Regulate PFAS in Drinking Water”).

 

In a letter led by Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), 20 senators from both sides of the aisle urged the agency to develop standards for a pair of chemicals — perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, more commonly known as PFOA and PFOS — found in millions of Americans' drinking water. They are demanding the federal government remove these toxic chemicals from drinking water and regularly test for them.

 

“EPA’s inaction would be a major setback to states and affected communities,” the senators wrote to acting agency administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Therefore, we urge you to develop enforceable federal drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS.”

 

The letter is the latest escalation of tensions between members of Congress and the EPA over the regulation of a class of chemicals that has proven to be a headache for Trump administration officials at the agency. The EPA came under criticism last year for delaying the release of a health study on the chemicals after a White House officials warned in an internal email that its release could turn out to be a “public relations nightmare.” The EPA earned more bad press after kicking reporters out of a forum on the issue in May.

 

The letter Friday puts Wheeler in a potentially tough spot. His nomination to officially become the EPA’s head official — and drop the “acting” title — is up for a vote this week in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Capito sits on the panel, where Republicans hold a slim one-vote majority.

 

******

No Limit, No Job!

 

From a Guest Opinion published in the February 5, 2019, edition of the Intelligencer by By Brian Fitzpatrick, Madeleine Dean and Brendan F. Boyle: "Anyone up for the job of EPA Administrator should make a firm commitment to setting a drinking water limit for PFOA and PFOS, in addition to taking other necessary steps like monitoring for other PFAS chemicals in drinking water and devoting resources to EPA’s research arm for new studies. Given the scale and scope of our country’s PFAS problem, anyone who is not willing to make those commitments should not get the job."

 

Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican, represents Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District, which includes Bucks County and a small piece of Montgomery County. Madeleine Dean, a Democrat, represents PA’s 4th District, which includes most of Montgomery County. Brendan Boyle, a Democrat, represents PA’s 2nd District, which includes Northeast Philadelphia and parts of North Philadelphia.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

Further Reading:

  •  “U.S. House Launches Bipartisan PFAS Task Force That Promises to Set Formal Drinking Water Standard for PFAS”; http://sco.lt/6JjI4P 
  • “NJ Department of Environmental Protection Set to Regulate PFOS, PFOA in Drinking Water. Safe Limits Will Be Much Lower Than Recommended by the PA DEP.”; http://sco.lt/63DJ8T 
  • “PA State Sen. Maria Collett to Introduce Bills to Lower Safe Levels of PFAS in Drinking Water”; http://sco.lt/5mREm1 
  • “PFAS From Tainted Water on Military Bases My Be Spreading to Other Towns in Bucks, Montco”; http://sco.lt/7Lillp 
  • “EWG Report: Perfluorinated Pollutant (PFAS) Contamination of Water Spreading”; http://sco.lt/4xLDiD 
  • “Newtown Artesian Water Report on PFAS to Newtown Board of Supervisors”; http://sco.lt/9AMQHR 
  • “EPA, Department of Defense, White House Conspired to Put Clamps on Release of PFAS Safety Limits for Drinking Water, Says Union of Concerned Scientists”; http://sco.lt/87oNHN 
  • “U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances Documents Call EPA’s PFAS Safety Numbers Into Question”; http://sco.lt/7umDCb 
  • “Lower Makefield, Not Satisfied with PA American Water's Paid Ad, Seeks More Answers, Assurances in Wake of Water Emergency”; http://sco.lt/5Ojmbp 
  • “U.S. Military Refuses to Test for PFAS in Fish in Horsham, PA & Other Areas”; http://sco.lt/6v9H6n 
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Purdue Pharma Lawsuit Apparently Shows the Drug Company Wanted to Capitalize on Opioid Addiction Treatment, Report Says

Purdue Pharma Lawsuit Apparently Shows the Drug Company Wanted to Capitalize on Opioid Addiction Treatment, Report Says | Public Health & Safety | Scoop.it

A new report claims Purdue Pharma, the drug company accused of helping engineer and profit from the opioid epidemic, also considered expanding into addiction treatment. The ProPublica article is purportedly based on secret parts of a lawsuit filed by the state of Massachusetts against Purdue and members of the Sackler family who own the company. The suit alleges Purdue deceptively sold OxyContin and downplayed its dangers. Purdue says it will continue to defend itself.

 

Family behind OxyContin maker engineered opioid crisis, Massachusetts AG says

 

According to ProPublica, blacked out portions of the documents apparently show Purdue wanted to capitalize on addiction treatment. The article cites "internal correspondence" between Purdue Pharma executives discussing how the "sale" and treatment of opioid addiction are "naturally linked." ProPublica goes on to report, "while OxyContin sales were declining, the internal team at Purdue touted the fact that the addiction treatment marketplace was expanding."

 

ProPublica specifically names Kathe Sackler as being involved with a secretive project called "Project Tango," which was allegedly meant to help Purdue break into the addiction treatment market.

 

The redacted documents also reportedly show that Richard Sackler "complained" over email that an OxyContin Google alert "was giving him too much information about the drug's dangers."

johnmacknewtown's insight:

Further Reading:

  •  “Purdue #Pharma Doesn't Want Court to Unseal Oxycontin Marketing Documents. What's It Hiding?”: http://sco.lt/6wb24f
  • “OxyContin's 12-hour Problem: Misrepresentation of Efficacy Leads to Addiction & Purdue Knew It”: http://sco.lt/8RfD5F
  • “The History of Purdue's Marketing of Oxycontin & Its Connection to the Opiate Epidemic”: http://sco.lt/6RajLd
  • “Doctor with Ties to Purdue #Pharma Helped Develop Canadian Opioid-Prescribing Guidelines”: http://sco.lt/7f1iin
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Enough Blame to Go Around for Opioid Epidemic

Enough Blame to Go Around for Opioid Epidemic | Public Health & Safety | Scoop.it

A Long Island doctor is using a novel defense against federal prosecutors accusing him of overprescribing opioid painkillers: He’s blaming the drug manufacturers.

 

In a motion pending in the Eastern District, Dr. Michael Belfiore argued that the multiple counts against him of illegally distributing oxycodone should be dropped, and that the “true culprits in the creation of the opioid epidemic, to wit: Big Pharma” should be held responsible.

 

“With all due respect to the government, its overly simplistic ‘knee jerk’ presentment to the grand jury totally ignored these compelling factors and wrongfully placed the blame on Dr. Belfiore,” Belfiore said in the motion.

 

The argument may be easier to make and sell in light of the growing wave of plaintiffs lawyers joining state and local governments in filing lawsuits against big pharmaceutical companies blaming them for the prescription opioid addiction epidemic and trying to recover taxpayer funds spent dealing with it. On Wednesday, the plaintiffs firm of Simmons Hanly Conroy filed separate lawsuits against pharmaceutical manufacturers and physicians on behalf of Dutchess, Seneca and Sullivan Counties following pending actions on behalf of Suffolk, Broome, Erie and Orange Counties.Although the pharmaceutical companies are not defendants in the Belfiore case, it is arguably the most creative lawsuit to accuse them of inundating the country with painkillers by deceiving doctors and the public about their safety, thereby playing a significant role in the nationwide epidemic.

 

In addition to going after Big Pharma through his defense in his federal criminal case, Belfiore has moved to intervene in the state civil case brought by Suffolk County, arguing that his complaint is “nearly identical” to the plaintiff-county’s.

 

“Dr. Belfiore, like many other doctors and their patients, is a victim of an opioid epidemic created by Purdue and other Big Pharma companies, which encouraged the aggressive prescribing of opioids for chronic pain,” the motion in Belfiore’s criminal case said.

 

Belfiore allegedly prescribed nearly 3,700 pain pills to three separate patients from September 2011 to August 2013, ranging from 248 to 2,910 pills per patient.

 

Further Reading:

  1. “NIH Summarizes the Statistics of the Current Opioid Crisis Caused by Prescriptions”; http://sco.lt/75Vzu5
  2. “Purdue #Pharma Doesn't Want Court to Unseal Oxycontin Marketing Documents. What's It Hiding?”: http://sco.lt/6wb24f 
  3. “OxyContin's 12-hour Problem: Misrepresentation of Efficacy Leads to Addiction & Purdue Knew It”: http://sco.lt/8RfD5F 
  4. “The History of Purdue's Marketing of Oxycontin & Its Connection to the Opiate Epidemic”: http://sco.lt/6RajLd
  5. “DUIPs (Docs Under the Influence of #Pharma) Prescribe Opioids - Sales Reps Arrested”; http://sco.lt/7grUor
  6. “Former FDA Commish Kessler Slams Docs, #FDA for Opioid Epidemic”; http://sco.lt/6AGBgf 
  7. “Opioid Epidemic Getting Worse Due to FDA, Which Now Says It Will Change Its Ways”; http://sco.lt/7uZNGT 

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Report: EPA Won't Regulate PFAS in Drinking Water

Report: EPA Won't Regulate PFAS in Drinking Water | Public Health & Safety | Scoop.it

The Environmental Protection Agency will not set formal drinking water standards for a class of toxic chemicals being found in drinking water throughout the country, including in Bucks and Montgomery counties, according to a report by Politico.

 

The online news outlet, which reports on politics and policy in Washington, D.C., cited two sources “familiar” with an upcoming EPA action plan that the agency will not pursue formal standards for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which were previously found in nationally high amounts in Horsham, Warminster and Warrington.

 

“If reporting is accurate than the Trump Administration is planning to turn its back on the people of Bucks and Montgomery Counties and put their lives in danger,” U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, said in a statement. “These communities are dealing with potential poison in their water. For this Administration to once again fail to address a pressing public health threat is outrageous.”

 

To date, the EPA has only recommended advisory limits for the chemicals in drinking water. When local drinking water contamination was first discovered in 2014, the limit was several hundred parts per trillion (ppt). The source of the chemicals was believed to be firefighting foam at several area military bases, causing nearby towns to shutter supply wells contaminated above that level and the military to pay for filtration systems.

 

In May 2016, the EPA lowered its advisory levels several-fold to just 70 ppt, closing additional wells. The military agreed to pay for additional filtration, but the water authorities for each town further enacted plans to remove the chemicals entirely due to uncertainty about the safety level. The military balked on paying for those plans, leaving the water authorities and their ratepayers on the hook for millions of dollars in rate hikes or surcharges.

 

Since then, an increasing number of communities nationwide have been hit by similar contamination, including hot spots in Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Washington state and elsewhere.

 

Should the EPA choose not to pursue a drinking water standard, additional pressure will likely be replaced on states and Congress to create protections. A number of local state lawmakers have each proposed bills to address PFAS in the state, including setting drinking water standards.

 

In the executive branch, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has said it is weighing its options and held the first meeting of its own PFAS “Action Team” in November. The group will have its second meeting at 6:15 p.m. Feb. 12 at Upper Dublin High School.

 

"If the EPA refuses to do its job, Congress must intercede," said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), who co-chairs the bipartisan congressional task force on the chemicals.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

Further Reading:

  • “U.S. House Launches Bipartisan PFAS Task Force That Promises to Set Formal Drinking Water Standard for PFAS”; http://sco.lt/6JjI4P 
  • “NJ Department of Environmental Protection Set to Regulate PFOS, PFOA in Drinking Water. Safe Limits Will Be Much Lower Than Recommended by the PA DEP.”; http://sco.lt/63DJ8T 
  • “PA State Sen. Maria Collett to Introduce Bills to Lower Safe Levels of PFAS in Drinking Water”; http://sco.lt/5mREm1 
  • “PFAS From Tainted Water on Military Bases My Be Spreading to Other Towns in Bucks, Montco”; http://sco.lt/7Lillp 
  • “EWG Report: Perfluorinated Pollutant (PFAS) Contamination of Water Spreading”; http://sco.lt/4xLDiD 
  • “Newtown Artesian Water Report on PFAS to Newtown Board of Supervisors”; http://sco.lt/9AMQHR 
  • “EPA, Department of Defense, White House Conspired to Put Clamps on Release of PFAS Safety Limits for Drinking Water, Says Union of Concerned Scientists”; http://sco.lt/87oNHN 
  • “U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances Documents Call EPA’s PFAS Safety Numbers Into Question”; http://sco.lt/7umDCb 
  • “Lower Makefield, Not Satisfied with PA American Water's Paid Ad, Seeks More Answers, Assurances in Wake of Water Emergency”; http://sco.lt/5Ojmbp 
  • “U.S. Military Refuses to Test for PFAS in Fish in Horsham, PA & Other Areas”; http://sco.lt/6v9H6n 
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Opioid Lawsuit Survey Comments

Opioid Lawsuit Survey Comments | Public Health & Safety | Scoop.it

A the December 12, 2018, public meeting, the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1 in favor of authorizing a law firm to file a suit against the manufacturers, promoters, and distributors of synthetic prescription Opioid medications on behalf of Newtown Township (read "Newtown Township Joins Suit Against Opioid Manufacturers and Distributors").

To gauge the opinions of local residents regarding this lawsuit, I started an online SURVEY on January 4, 2019. You can find more information about this survey here.

As of January 24, 2019, 111 responses were collected. Here, I summarize some comments "Pro & Con". To find out percent of respondents in favor vs not in favor, you can take the survey yourself (results to date will be displayed after you take the survey, but no comments) or you can subscribe to my newsletter where the results will be published in the January 26, 2019, issue.

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NJ Department of Environmental Protection Set to Regulate PFOS, PFOA in Drinking Water. Safe Limits Will Be Much Lower Than Recommended by the PA DEP.

NJ Department of Environmental Protection Set to Regulate PFOS, PFOA in Drinking Water. Safe Limits Will Be Much Lower Than Recommended by the PA DEP. | Public Health & Safety | Scoop.it

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is targeting this spring to make a decision on whether it will add a pair of toxic chemicals to its list of regulated substances in drinking water, employees said at a recent public input meeting.

 

The chemicals, PFOS and PFOA, are part of a class called perfluorinated compounds, which have gained nationwide attention in recent years due to their presence in a variety of products, ranging from nonstick pans to clothing, food packaging and firefighting foams. Studies have linked the chemicals to numerous health effects, including some cancers, although their impacts on the immune system and child development are believed to occur at the lowest exposure levels.

 

New Jersey, which uses a team of scientists to study chemical risks, is one of the leading states nationwide in moving to regulate the perfluorinated compound family, also referred to as PFAS. Last September, the DEP formally regulated sister chemical PFNA, setting a first-of-its-kind limit for the chemical in drinking water. Thousands of water utilities across the state will begin sampling for PFNA this year, and filtration will be required anywhere it is found above 13 parts per trillion (ppt).

 

New Jersey’s toxicologists already recommended a PFOA limit of 14 ppt in March 2017, which was accepted by its commissioner in November 2017. A 13 ppt PFOS limit was recommended in June and accepted last fall. But in order to become regulations, the limits would have to be formally proposed in the state register, which initiates a public comment period before becoming officially adopted.

 

[NOTE: 70-ppt is the limit recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the PA DEP for these chemicals. See figure.]

johnmacknewtown's insight:

Further Reading:

  • “PA State Sen. Maria Collett to Introduce Bills to Lower Safe Levels of PFAS in Drinking Water”; http://sco.lt/5mREm1 
  • “PFAS From Tainted Water on Military Bases My Be Spreading to Other Towns in Bucks, Montco”; http://sco.lt/7Lillp 
  • “EWG Report: Perfluorinated Pollutant (PFAS) Contamination of Water Spreading”; http://sco.lt/4xLDiD 
  • “Newtown Artesian Water Report on PFAS to Newtown Board of Supervisors”; http://sco.lt/9AMQHR 
  • “EPA, Department of Defense, White House Conspired to Put Clamps on Release of PFAS Safety Limits for Drinking Water, Says Union of Concerned Scientists”; http://sco.lt/87oNHN 
  • “U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances Documents Call EPA’s PFAS Safety Numbers Into Question”; http://sco.lt/7umDCb 
  • “Lower Makefield, Not Satisfied with PA American Water's Paid Ad, Seeks More Answers, Assurances in Wake of Water Emergency”; http://sco.lt/5Ojmbp 
  • “U.S. Military Refuses to Test for PFAS in Fish in Horsham, PA & Other Areas”; http://sco.lt/6v9H6n 
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December 2018 Police Report: Progress Against Opioid Epidemic

December 2018 Police Report: Progress Against Opioid Epidemic | Public Health & Safety | Scoop.it

Interim Police Chief Jason Harris presented the Calls for Service Report for December 2018 at the January 9, 2019, Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting. In December, the Newtown Police Department responded to 1,285 total calls, 227 (18%) of which were in Wrightstown Township (Newtown Police provides services to both Newtown Township and Wrightstown).

 

I note that in December there were no calls for drug overdose and no calls involving the use of Narcan by Newtown Police, which is good news. In fact, according to the Chief’s report, for 2018, Police Calls in Newtown and Wrightstown townships for drug overdoses is down by about 40% (13 in 2018 vs. 22 in 2017). Calls involving Narcan use, however, increased by 50% (3 in 2018 vs. 2 in 2017).

 

See more crime statistics for December 2018 and year-end totals versus 2017 along with charts here.

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Opioid Disaster Declaration Working, Officials Say

Opioid Disaster Declaration Working, Officials Say | Public Health & Safety | Scoop.it

The work is far from over, state leaders said Monday, but Pennsylvania’s death toll from the opioid crisis appears to be on the decline.

 

Nearly one year ago, Gov. Tom Wolf announced a statewide “disaster declaration” to battle the unprecedented rise in opioid deaths, a move aimed at making it easier for people to get help.

 

On Monday, state leaders gathered at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Susquehanna to announce progress made since that declaration and to unveil a campaign beginning in March to advertise the state’s 24-hour help hotline: 1-800-662-HELP.

 

The declaration launched numerous initiatives, including a data collecting and sharing effort, and relaxed regulations to make treatment and funding for treatment more accessible.

 

But work is far from over, officials said Monday.

 

Since November 2016, more than 36,700 phone calls have come into the 24-hour helpline, with 45 percent of calls “resulting in a direct connection to treatment.”

 

Though 2018 state coroner reports aren’t complete, preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show an 11 percent decline in Pennsylvania drug deaths between the 12-month period ending in May 2017 and the 12-month period ending in May 2018.

 

According to the December analysis, Pennsylvania overdose deaths dropped from 5,386 to 4,783

 

Reflecting on last year’s progress, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said that rules and guidelines put into place by the administration helped reduce opioid prescriptions by more than 24 percent, and she said the state’s prescription monitor program “virtually eliminated doctor shopping in Pennsylvania.”

 

The disaster declaration also allowed EMS personnel who respond to an overdose to leave behind the opioid overdose reversal drug Narcan, also known as naloxone, for family or friends of the victim. Police alone saved more than 9,000 people from dying of overdoses, and in the last year EMS agencies were responsible for 12,000 rescues. Levine signed a naloxone prescription in 2015 for the general public, ordering all pharmacies in Pennsylvania to have the drug readily available for anyone who asks.

 

The big push now is to expand the state’s “warm hand-off” program, which is often dependent on a hospital’s willingness to take part in it. The purpose of the program is to link patients — who come into emergency rooms for help or after an overdose — to treatment or some kind of help. However, it is voluntary and not all hospitals take part in the program.

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January 2019 Police Report

January 2019 Police Report | Public Health & Safety | Scoop.it

Interim Police Chief Jason Harris presented the Calls Report for January 2019 at the February 13, 2019, Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting. In January, the Newtown Police Department responded to 1,529 total calls, 264 (17%) of which were in Wrightstown Township (Newtown Police provides services to both Newtown Township and Wrightstown). 

 

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Perfluorinated Compounds Detected in Newtown Township's Water Supply

Perfluorinated Compounds Detected in Newtown Township's Water Supply | Public Health & Safety | Scoop.it

By now, Newtown Township, Newtown Borough, and some Middletown residents have received a letter from the Newtown Artesian Water Company (NAWCO) alerting customers that “a recent round of [water source] samples have shown detectable limits” of Perfluorinated Compounds (i.e., PFOS and PFOA Definition).

 

Previously, at the August 8, 2018, Newtown Board of Supervisors meeting, Dan Angove, the NAWCO’s Assistant General Manager, reported that the levels of these compounds in Newtown’s drinking water was “nondectable”; i.e., below 5 parts per trillion (ppt).

 

The letter does not mention the exact amounts of these contaminants in recent samples but refers residents to the NAWCO website (www.newtownwater.com) to find the results of measurements. The chart shown above is based on that data.

 

Find more details here…

johnmacknewtown's insight:

Further Reading:

  • “Temple Researcher, Local Group Awarded Grant to Support Research Into Health Effects of PFAS in Drinking Water”; http://sco.lt/7YYrkv
  • “Senators From BOTH Parties Press EPA to Develop Enforceable Standards Limiting PFOA and PFOS in Drinking Water”; http://sco.lt/8NQUwz
  • “U.S. House Launches Bipartisan PFAS Task Force That Promises to Set Formal Drinking Water Standard for PFAS”; http://sco.lt/6JjI4P
  • “NJ Department of Environmental Protection Set to Regulate PFOS, PFOA in Drinking Water. Safe Limits Will Be Much Lower Than Recommended by the PA DEP.”; http://sco.lt/63DJ8T
  • “PA State Sen. Maria Collett to Introduce Bills to Lower Safe Levels of PFAS in Drinking Water”; http://sco.lt/5mREm1
  • “PFAS From Tainted Water on Military Bases My Be Spreading to Other Towns in Bucks, Montco”; http://sco.lt/7Lillp
  • “EWG Report: Perfluorinated Pollutant (PFAS) Contamination of Water Spreading”; http://sco.lt/4xLDiD
  • “Newtown Artesian Water Report on PFAS to Newtown Board of Supervisors”; http://sco.lt/9AMQHR
  • “EPA, Department of Defense, White House Conspired to Put Clamps on Release of PFAS Safety Limits for Drinking Water, Says Union of Concerned Scientists”; http://sco.lt/87oNHN
  • “U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances Documents Call EPA’s PFAS Safety Numbers Into Question”; http://sco.lt/7umDCb
  • “Lower Makefield, Not Satisfied with PA American Water's Paid Ad, Seeks More Answers, Assurances in Wake of Water Emergency”; http://sco.lt/5Ojmbp
  • “U.S. Military Refuses to Test for PFAS in Fish in Horsham, PA & Other Areas”; http://sco.lt/6v9H6n
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Nine Philadelphia Council Members Turned Their Back on Opioid Crisis by Refusing to Reign in Pharmaceutical Marketing Tactics

Nine Philadelphia Council Members Turned Their Back on Opioid Crisis by Refusing to Reign in Pharmaceutical Marketing Tactics | Public Health & Safety | Scoop.it

[Abstracted from an Editorial published in the Philadelphia Inquirer]

 

… nine [Philadelphia] City Council members voted against a bill that could have had an impact on the over-prescription of opioids. The failed bill, introduced by Council members Bill Greenlee and Cindy Bass, would have required all pharmaceutical representatives to register with the City and would have banned them from giving away gifts and free meals to prescribing physicians. City health officials supported the bill, as did [The Inquirer] editorial board.

 

The bill was opposed by the pharmaceutical industry, arguing that the regulation will prevent important information passing from drug manufacturers to physicians. The hotel industry also opposed it, fearing that the bill will drive away science conventions,

 

It is unclear why meals and free gifts are so critical to communicating information.

 

In fact, just last month a new study published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association found that counties in which there were more marketing for opioid products saw more prescribing, and subsequently more overdose deaths (see here http://sco.lt/8LBHsH ). While this is not the first study that found a relationship between marketing of drugs and prescribing, the new study both ties the marketing to overdose death rates and shows that multiple small gifts, such as a meal, matter more than expensive gifts.

 

The no votes for the pharma bill represent a vote for the culture of quid pro quo -- which is bad enough, but infinitely more deplorable as the city struggles to stem the devastation of death and destruction caused by opioids. Nine members of City Council just turned their backs on this crisis. They owe every family that has lost a loved one an explanation as to why.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

Further Reading:

  • “Chance of Being Prescribed Opioids for Minor Injury Differs Dramatically by Where You Live”; http://sco.lt/5bBzo9
  • “Dancing with Fentanyl: Insys Sales Reps Caught Rapping to Boost Sales”; http://sco.lt/9JOA6L
  • “Secret Internal Sales Documents Reveal Abbott's Despicable "Crusade" to Sell OxyContin”; http://sco.lt/4jHnJB
  • “How Congress Allied with Drug Company Lobbyists to Derail the DEA’s War on Opioids”; http://sco.lt/8AzdqL
  • “California Senate Moves To Restrict Gifts to Doctors”; http://sco.lt/6ryJwP
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PA Department of Environmental Protection Must Be Clear on Elcon & Provide "Truckloads of Information" at Upcoming Public Meeting

PA Department of Environmental Protection Must Be Clear on Elcon & Provide "Truckloads of Information" at Upcoming Public Meeting | Public Health & Safety | Scoop.it

[The following is excerpted from an Intelligencer editorial.]

 

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will host a public meeting March 5 to share information and answer questions about the proposed hazardous waste treatment facility that Elcon Recycling Services wants to build in Falls. We hope the DEP brings truckloads of information. Now is its chance to be completely transparent about Elcon’s plans and its own process.

 

[The meeting will take place on Tuesday, March 5, 2019, from 6:00-9:00 PM at the Sheraton Bucks County Hotel, 400 Oxford Valley Road, Langhorne, PA 19047.]

 

Both have long troubled residents of Falls and nearby municipalities along the Delaware River in Lower Bucks and Burlington counties. In addition to the basics about Elcon’s development proposal, here are some of the items DEP should be ready to provide concerned residents:

 

  • A step-by-step look at DEP’s process for deciding whether to approve Elcon’s plans.

 

  • Any relevant permitting procedures that Elcon needs to follow and the criteria and timeframe for approval.

 

  • Details about the hazardous waste Elcon will treat and whether it would be biological, organic, flammable, corrosive or radioactive.

 

  • Easy-to-follow explainers about wastewater — where it would come from, what would be in it, how it would be treated, what byproducts would result and at what concentrations, and how it would be discharged.

 

  • What oversight Elcon will receive from the DEP once operations begin. Would monitoring be continuous or occasional?

 

  • What penalties exist if Elcon fails to meet promised environmental benchmarks or exceeds maximum emission standards.

 

Elcon has been trying to get into the Keystone Industrial Port Complex for about five years. The company wants to build on a 23-acre parcel of the old U.S. Steel property. Elcon has agreed to pay U.S. Steel almost $3 million for the property, though sale is contingent on final DEP permits and construction approval from Falls.

 

[Listen to this podcast in which John Brodowski, the Deputy Mayor of Bordentown City, New Jersey, reviews the background of the proposed Elcon hazardous waste treatment facility site in Falls Township and makes a case for why neighboring communities should oppose this project.]

 

The site would treat up to 193,000 tons of hazardous and pharmaceutical waste per year and Elcon says it will limit any toxic releases to safe amounts. Elcon promotes a “thermal oxidization” process to thoroughly clean air emissions. We’d like the DEP to explain what the toxins are, why they aren’t completely destroyed by the process and what amounts they deem safe.

 

Critics of the plans are skeptical of the technology, likening it to a simple incinerator and believe it will emit harmful pollutants into the air or the Delaware River, which provides drinking water for millions of people, particularly in the event of a malfunction or spill.

 

From the beginning, Elcon has faced public opposition and its applications have had various problems. The DEP rejected a “Phase I” land application in 2015 over a lack of flood-risk data. A resubmitted application advanced to “Phase II” but was sent back twice in 2017 for missing materials.

 

But the latest application received a key approval last July that started a 10-month technical review. When that ends, DEP will publish either a draft permit or a notice of intent to deny the permit. The public will then have at least 45 days to comment on the matter in writing or, potentially, at a hearing. Once the comment period expires, the DEP Secretary will issue or deny the permit.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

Further Reading:

  •  “Elcon Reapplies to DEP for Toxic Waste Facility Located Next to Delaware River”; http://sco.lt/88Ru3l 
  • “It May Take Lawsuits to Stop the Elcon Toxic Waste Incinerator”; http://sco.lt/68dz7p 
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Bucks County Doctors Charged With Operating Illegal "Pill Mill": Lock Them Up!

Bucks County Doctors Charged With Operating Illegal "Pill Mill": Lock Them Up! | Public Health & Safety | Scoop.it

More than a dozen doctors and medical professionals have been charged with operating a pill mill that unlawfully provided opioids to hundreds of patients in the Philadelphia region, federal officials announced Wednesday. Some of the pills were sold, and others were given for sexual favors, authorities allege in two indictments.

 

United States Attorney William M. McSwain said 14 have been charged with various drug-related crimes after nearly 3,700 illegal prescriptions were written by a single business. Three Bucks County residents have been charged: a doctor from Warrington, another from Warminster, and a physician's assistant from Bristol.

 

Thirteen of those charged were employed at AUC, a medical business with office locations in Philadelphia, Montgomeryville, and Willow Grove owned and operated by Dr. Mehdi Nikparvar-Fard. Additionally, a Philadelphia doctor who allegedly conspired with an AUC doctor is also charged by indictment.

 

Patients participating in the "pain management" program displayed a variety of warning signs that should have alerted doctors something was amiss, the US Attorney said.

 

Charged are:

 

  • Dr. Mehdi Nikparvar-Fard, 49, of Penn Valley
  • Dr. Vincent Thompson, 70, of Elkins Park
  • Dr. Loretta Brown, 65, of Landsowne
  • Dr. Avrom Brown, 70, of Elkins Park
  • Dr. Frederick Reichle, 83, of Warrington
  • Dr. Marcus Rey Williams, 70, of Coatesville
  • Dr. William Demedio, 58, of Springfield
  • Dr. Neil Cutler, 77, of Warminster
  • Mitchell White, 33, of Philadelphia (Physician's Assistant)
  • Jason Dillinger, 40, of West Chester (Physician's Assistant)
  • Debra Cortez, 56, of Bristol (Physician's Assistant)
  • Samantha Hollis, 42, of Wilmington, Delaware (Physician's Assistant)
  • Joanne Rivera, 35, of Pennsauken, New Jersey (Office Manager)
johnmacknewtown's insight:

Further Reading:

  • “Bucks Co. Doctor Prescribed Opioids To Addicts, Drug Dealers”; http://sco.lt/7pNh0T
  • “Founder of Insys Indicted for Bribing Docs to Illegally Prescribe Fentanyl. Lock Him Up!”; http://sco.lt/7c2Cqf
  • “Former Insys Sales Reps Bribed Docs To Prescribe Opioids To As Many Patients as Possible”; http://sco.lt/7jGNHN
  • “Americans Consume More Opioids Per Person Than Any Other Country”; http://sco.lt/7YncwL
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We Need a "Full" Ban on Fracking to Protect the Delaware River Basin!

We Need a "Full" Ban on Fracking to Protect the Delaware River Basin! | Public Health & Safety | Scoop.it

The gas industry doesn’t seem to have taken much of an interest in the talk surrounding a ban on fracking in the Delaware River basin. It could be that its key players don’t think there is developable gas resources down there.

In fact, all the protest we’ve seen on the issue has come from environmentalists, who say it’s not enough to ban hydraulic fracking — the process of pumping water, mixed with chemicals, into the earth to release natural gas. They also want the ban to include the import, treatment and discharge of wastewater from the drilling.

You never know what the future holds, however, so we’re on board with Gov. Phil Murphy’s call for a “full” fracking ban that does just that in the basin, which also touches parts of Pennsylvania, Delaware and New York. The northern half of Burlington County is in the basin.

Murphy announced his position in a letter to the Delaware River Basin Commission, which oversees water resources throughout the watershed. The commission includes the governors of the four states plus a representative of the federal government.

A spokesman for Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf told NPR that his office was still reviewing the letter. We hope that once that review is finished, Wolf will follow Murphy’s lead.

The commission created a de-facto moratorium on fracking in 2010 and extended it indefinitely the following November when it delayed enacting regulations that would have allowed drilling.

In 2017, Wolf voted with the governors of New York and Delaware to issue draft regulations to permanently ban fracking in the basin. Murphy’s predecessor, Chris Christie, abstained from the vote and the federal representative opposed it. That proposed ban, however, did not include the wastewater restriction that environmentalists wanted. Murphy’s letter supporting a “full” ban was praised by those environmentalists.

We’re not sure when, or if, a vote on Murphy’s proposal will follow, but here’s why we like it and hope Wolf will support it. We believe if the gas industry is interested in the basin, it’d more likely be for wastewater discharge than for drilling. The basin’s proximity to Pennsylvania’s portion of the Marcellus Shale could make it a logical place for the wastewater, which environmentalists claim is toxic, to end up. And as Murphy said in his letter:

“The chemicals present in fracking wastewater are still unknown and we must take caution to protect the recreational, ecological and water resources for the millions of residents and businesses who rely on a clean Delaware River basin.”

johnmacknewtown's insight:

At a March 28, 2018, public meeting, the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors approved Resolution 2018-R-10, which calls upon the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) to “enact a complete and permanent ban on natural gas development and hydraulic fracturing and all related activities (including drilling, fracking, wastewater processing and discharges from and water withdrawals for drilling and fracking operations) throughout the basin.” More on that and video comments before the Board of Sharon Furlong, spokesperson for the Bucks Environmental Action Group and for Bucks County Sierra Club, here.

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OxyContin's 12-hour Problem: Misrepresentation of Efficacy Leads to Addiction & Purdue Knew It

OxyContin's 12-hour Problem: Misrepresentation of Efficacy Leads to Addiction & Purdue Knew It | Public Health & Safety | Scoop.it

The drugmaker Purdue Pharma launched OxyContin two decades ago with a bold marketing claim: One dose relieves pain for 12 hours, more than twice as long as generic medications.

 

Patients would no longer have to wake up in the middle of the night to take their pills, Purdue told doctors. One OxyContin tablet in the morning and one before bed would provide “smooth and sustained pain control all day and all night.”

 

When Purdue unveiled OxyContin in 1996, it touted 12-hour duration.

 

On the strength of that promise, OxyContin became America’s bestselling painkiller, and Purdue reaped $31 billion in revenue.

But OxyContin’s stunning success masked a fundamental problem: The drug wears off hours early in many people, a Los Angeles Times investigation found. OxyContin is a chemical cousin of heroin, and when it doesn’t last, patients can experience excruciating symptoms of withdrawal, including an intense craving for the drug.

 

The problem offers new insight into why so many people have become addicted to OxyContin, one of the most abused pharmaceuticals in U.S. history.

 

The Times investigation, based on thousands of pages of confidential Purdue documents and other records, found that:

 

  • Purdue has known about the problem for decades. Even before OxyContin went on the market, clinical trials showed many patients weren’t getting 12 hours of relief. Since the drug’s debut in 1996, the company has been confronted with additional evidence, including complaints from doctors, reports from its own sales reps and independent research.
  • The company has held fast to the claim of 12-hour relief, in part to protect its revenue. OxyContin’s market dominance and its high price — up to hundreds of dollars per bottle — hinge on its 12-hour duration. Without that, it offers little advantage over less expensive painkillers.
  • When many doctors began prescribing OxyContin at shorter intervals in the late 1990s, Purdue executives mobilized hundreds of sales reps to “refocus” physicians on 12-hour dosing. Anything shorter “needs to be nipped in the bud. NOW!!” one manager wrote to her staff.
  • Purdue tells doctors to prescribe stronger doses, not more frequent ones, when patients complain that OxyContin doesn’t last 12 hours. That approach creates risks of its own. Research shows that the more potent the dose of an opioid such as OxyContin, the greater the possibility of overdose and death.
  • More than half of long-term OxyContin users are on doses that public health officials consider dangerously high, according to an analysis of nationwide prescription data conducted for The Times.

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Navy Investigating the Spread of PFAS from the Former Warminster Naval Air Warfare Center: “[Contaminated] Water Will Pretty Much Discharge in Every Direction.”

Navy Investigating the Spread of PFAS from the Former Warminster Naval Air Warfare Center: “[Contaminated] Water Will Pretty Much Discharge in Every Direction.” | Public Health & Safety | Scoop.it

The Navy is still in the midst of an extensive investigation of PFAS chemical contamination at the former Naval Air Warfare Center [NAWC] in Warminster, with no timeline for when cleanup work would begin, department officials said at a Wednesday morning meeting.

 

The Navy has long hosted regular review meetings for the NAWC, which closed in 1996 and has since largely been converted to the Warminster Community Park and Ann’s Choice Retirement Community. However, the site still is listed as a Superfund cleanup site and the Navy is responsible for continuing to monitor and clean various chemical contaminations.

 

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, were added to the list after they were first discovered in nearby drinking water supplies in 2014. And while the Navy said Wednesday it has since spent more than $14 million to provide filters and clean water to the Warminster Municipal Authority, it has not yet engaged in robust environmental cleanup. The chemicals were ingredients of firefighting foams used at the former base.

 

Navy officials spent much of the meeting relaying the results of ongoing PFAS investigations at the site, which has included exploratory sampling of groundwater, soil and streams leaving the site over the past three years. Deep into the Navy’s presentation, Tim Hagey, manager of the Warminster Municipal Authority, interrupted to ask about the big picture.

 

“We know the entire Warminster township area is contaminated ... What’s the end goal?” Hagey asked. “To do a proper cleanup, or just find out the extent of the pollution?”

 

William Lin, environmental coordinator for the Navy, responded the department is still in the earlier stages of its work.

 

“In general, right now the Navy is investigating the sources and the migration pathways (of PFAS),” Lin said. “We recognize that there are no regulatory standards (for PFAS) at this time, but we are trying to understand how it’s migrating.”

 

“(The base) is on an elevated plateau, so water will pretty much discharge in every direction,” Andrew Barton, a project manager with Navy environmental contractor Battelle said.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

Further Reading:

  • “Report: EPA Won't Regulate PFAS in Drinking Water”; http://sco.lt/64xbCz

  •  

    “U.S. House Launches Bipartisan PFAS Task Force That Promises to Set Formal Drinking Water Standard for PFAS”; http://sco.lt/6JjI4P 
  • “NJ Department of Environmental Protection Set to Regulate PFOS, PFOA in Drinking Water. Safe Limits Will Be Much Lower Than Recommended by the PA DEP.”; http://sco.lt/63DJ8T 
  • “PA State Sen. Maria Collett to Introduce Bills to Lower Safe Levels of PFAS in Drinking Water”; http://sco.lt/5mREm1 
  • “PFAS From Tainted Water on Military Bases My Be Spreading to Other Towns in Bucks, Montco”; http://sco.lt/7Lillp 
  • “EWG Report: Perfluorinated Pollutant (PFAS) Contamination of Water Spreading”; http://sco.lt/4xLDiD 
  • “Newtown Artesian Water Report on PFAS to Newtown Board of Supervisors”; http://sco.lt/9AMQHR 
  • “EPA, Department of Defense, White House Conspired to Put Clamps on Release of PFAS Safety Limits for Drinking Water, Says Union of Concerned Scientists”; http://sco.lt/87oNHN 
  • “U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances Documents Call EPA’s PFAS Safety Numbers Into Question”; http://sco.lt/7umDCb 
  • “Lower Makefield, Not Satisfied with PA American Water's Paid Ad, Seeks More Answers, Assurances in Wake of Water Emergency”; http://sco.lt/5Ojmbp 
  • “U.S. Military Refuses to Test for PFAS in Fish in Horsham, PA & Other Areas”; http://sco.lt/6v9H6n 
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DEA’s 2017 Pennsylvania Opioid Threat Report

DEA’s 2017 Pennsylvania Opioid Threat Report | Public Health & Safety | Scoop.it

Drug-related overdose deaths in Pennsylvania increased by 65 percent overall between 2015 and 2017

 

In 2017, Pennsylvania’s coroners and medical examiners reported a total of 5,456 drug-related overdose deaths. This count represents a rate of 43 deaths per 100,000 population, nearly twice the national average of 22 deaths per 100,000 population in 2017. Drug-related overdose deaths in Pennsylvania increased by 65 percent overall between 2015 and 2017, largely attributed to the availability and use of fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances.

 

The Opioid Threat in Pennsylvania, is available to the public to download here.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

Further Reading:

  • “Opioid Disaster Declaration Working, Officials Say”; http://sco.lt/5CPTAf
  • “AMA Analysis Shows Mixed Results in PA’s Effort to Combat Opioid Epidemic”; http://sco.lt/5Nkp4z
  • “Newtown Township Supervisors Vote to File Civil Lawsuit Against Drug Manufacturers Over Opioid Crisis”; http://sco.lt/621t0j
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U.S. House Launches Bipartisan PFAS Task Force That Promises to Set Formal Drinking Water Standard for PFAS

U.S. House Launches Bipartisan PFAS Task Force That Promises to Set Formal Drinking Water Standard for PFAS | Public Health & Safety | Scoop.it

[A group of U.S. House Representatives launched a bipartisan task force to tackle PFAS, a family of unregulated chemicals affecting congressional districts across the country.]

 

Few areas have been hit harder by the chemicals than Bucks and Montgomery counties, where the drinking water supplies of more than 70,000 current residents, and uncounted past residents, was found to be contaminated in recent years. Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, R-1, of Middletown, will co-chair the newly minted Congressional PFAS Task Force, while local representatives Madeleine Dean, D-4, of Abington, and Brendan Boyle, D-2, of Philadelphia, are also members.

 

Seventeen representatives from six other states will join them, totaling 13 Democrats and seven Republicans.

 

“What this task force will do is allow us to collectively speak, with one voice,” Fitzpatrick said during Wednesday’s news conference, which was broadcast on Facebook from Capitol Hill. “It’s a big problem. It’s very pervasive.”

 

In past congressional sessions, lawmakers have patched together piecemeal legislation addressing the chemicals, which according to some estimates are found in the drinking water of tens of millions of Americans. Legislation pushed by Boyle, Fitzpatrick, and Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, have ultimately awarded more than $100 million to help pay for clean up costs at military sites and upcoming health studies.

 

But the white whale has become federal regulation of the chemicals, particularly PFOS and PFOA, the two most known substances from the chemical family. Key goals touted by lawmakers Wednesday are the creation of a formal drinking water standard and the addition of the chemicals to official hazardous substances lists, including for Superfund sites.

 

“Any clean up that happens is (currently) voluntary,” Boyle said.

 

Several task force members also said they’d make it a priority to determine a single safety standard. The EPA has set an advisory health limit of 70 parts per trillion of PFOS and PFOA in drinking water, but other federal and state agencies have put forth lower safety levels, which Fitzpatrick called a “patch-work” approach.

 

They also hinted at a likely backlash. The chemicals were used for decades in a variety of products used by the military and private industry, and their pervasiveness means there will likely be few areas of the country untouched by contamination hot spots. Fitzpatrick said he believes the manufacturers of the chemicals should ultimately be held responsible.

 

“The chemical industry is not happy with anyone standing on this stage,” Dingell said during the news conference.

 

*For the history of contamination of drinking water due to the use of PFAS in the manufacture of Teflon, see the movie "The Devil We Know" on Netflix.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

Further Reading:

  • “NJ Department of Environmental Protection Set to Regulate PFOS, PFOA in Drinking Water. Safe Limits Will Be Much Lower Than Recommended by the PA DEP.”; http://sco.lt/63DJ8T 
  • “PA State Sen. Maria Collett to Introduce Bills to Lower Safe Levels of PFAS in Drinking Water”; http://sco.lt/5mREm1 
  • “PFAS From Tainted Water on Military Bases My Be Spreading to Other Towns in Bucks, Montco”; http://sco.lt/7Lillp 
  • “EWG Report: Perfluorinated Pollutant (PFAS) Contamination of Water Spreading”; http://sco.lt/4xLDiD 
  • “Newtown Artesian Water Report on PFAS to Newtown Board of Supervisors”; http://sco.lt/9AMQHR 
  • “EPA, Department of Defense, White House Conspired to Put Clamps on Release of PFAS Safety Limits for Drinking Water, Says Union of Concerned Scientists”; http://sco.lt/87oNHN 
  • “U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances Documents Call EPA’s PFAS Safety Numbers Into Question”; http://sco.lt/7umDCb 
  • “Lower Makefield, Not Satisfied with PA American Water's Paid Ad, Seeks More Answers, Assurances in Wake of Water Emergency”; http://sco.lt/5Ojmbp 
  • “U.S. Military Refuses to Test for PFAS in Fish in Horsham, PA & Other Areas”; http://sco.lt/6v9H6n 
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Opioid Forum Hosted by Lubavitch of Bucks County in Newtown Borough Emphasizes Addiction is a Disease, Not a Crime

Opioid Forum Hosted by Lubavitch of Bucks County in Newtown Borough Emphasizes Addiction is a Disease, Not a Crime | Public Health & Safety | Scoop.it

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick and Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub were among the guest speakers at the town hall meeting and resource fair hosted by Lubavitch of Bucks County in Newtown Borough.

A Newtown rabbi is asking the community to help build an ark in an attempt to save the lives of those drowning in addiction, as opioids continue to flood the country.

Speaking Thursday at a town hall meeting and resource fair at Lubavitch of Bucks County in Newtown Borough, Rabbi Yehuda Shemtov announced the launch of ARC House, which stands for Addiction Resource Center.

Described as a grassroots effort to guide those struggling with addiction toward those who can help them achieve long-term sobriety, he asked everyone in the room to take out their cellphones and log on to archousepa.org to volunteer.

Members of recovery organizations such as Narcotics Anonymous, White Deer Run Treatment Network and the Council Rock Coalition for Healthy Youth manned information tables throughout the building.

Shemtov said he was happy to see such a large turnout, but said the fact that such a large crowd had attended illustrated the severity of the drug epidemic.

“The issues we are dealing with, opioid abuse and mental health issues, don’t know any boundaries,” he said. “It doesn’t look at the color of your skin, your religion, your gender, it touches every human being.”

Co-organizing the event along with Lubavitch was the office of Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and the Bucks County Drug and Alcohol Commission.

 

“There are people who are suffering,” said Shapiro, “people who need us to reduce the stigma of raising your hand to say ‘I need help.’”

johnmacknewtown's insight:

When I mentioned to representatives of the PA Attorney General's office that Newtown Township was suing opioid manufacturers (read "Newtown Township Joins Suit Against Opioid Manufacturers and Distributors"), they were very happy to hear it. PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro says opioid manufacturers have a "serious part of the responsibility for this crisis." Listen to his comments here.

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Newtown Township Board of Supervisors Hires Philadelphia Captain as Newtown's Next Police Chief

Newtown Township Board of Supervisors Hires Philadelphia Captain as Newtown's Next Police Chief | Public Health & Safety | Scoop.it

The township will soon have a new police chief.

 

At the Jan. 9 meeting, the board of supervisors hired Philadelphia police captain John Hearn to head the township's 31-officer police department.

 

In a quick vote without discussion or debate, the board unanimously approved an employment agreement with Hearn.

 

Voting for the police chief’s contract were: Chairman Phil Calabro, Vice Chairman Linda Bobrin, along with Supervisors John Mack, Kyle Davis and Dennis Fisher.

 

Although Hearn’s name was not publicly disclosed at the supervisor’s meeting, BucksLocalNews.comhas confirmed that he will take over the position sometime this spring after he wraps up his job with the Philadelphia Police Department, where he has worked for nearly 30 years.

 

Once on board in Newtown, the 52-year-old Hearn, who lives in Northampton Township, will oversee 31 officers, commanders and civilian staff members along with a $5.27-million budget this year.

He’ll replace former Chief Rick Pasqualini, who retired in July. In the interim, Lt. Jason Harris has been serving as acting police chief.

 

Capt. Hearn’s resume is both extensive and impressive.

Since 2017, he has been the commanding officer of the 14th District in Northwest Philadelphia, which covers the Chestnut Hill and Germantown sections, as well as East and West Mt. Airy.

Prior to that, he was a lieutenant for 12 years with the Highway Patrol, a specialized unit in the Philadelphia Police Department.

 

While there, he had extensive experience with logistics, security and training.

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