Friday, September 11, 2009

Details on October NOPE Rally to come

Members of NOPE's leadership team met last night to set in motion plans for a major rally in late-October, most likely in Colts Neck. Please stay tuned here for details on specific date, time and location, which we expect to square away by next week.

Let's be clear that NOPE's fight is far from finished, and that people in the surrounding communities need to get off the couch and show up for our events, as was the case with big turnouts to our 2008 and early 2009 briefings. Our 3,000 supporters, and others still oblivious to our battle, need to know more about all of the time and effort NOPE and our elected leaders (Representatives Smith and Holt, Senators Lautenberg and Menendez, the District 12 team of Beck-O'Scanlan-Casagrande, local elected officials) have put forth, and how we will prevail in this battle to stop civilian residents from ever stepping foot on Weapons Station Earle.

We still have several coals on the fire as the Navy's contract compliance deadline nears in April 2010, and need to continue to turn the screws to prevent a bad situation that everyone but the Navy itself knows will compromise base and national security, devastate our school districts and taxpayers financially and impact the environment. EVERYONE IN THE COMMUNITY NEEDS TO COME OUT TO THIS EVENT AND STAY INFORMED, and we will have more details in the days and weeks to come.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

NOPE files another environmental challenge, re: convergence of planned Laurelwood access route and EPA Superfund site

This afternoon we are mailing another challenge to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, questioning the apparent overlap of the Navy's route selection (i.e. "Alternative 4" from the EIS) to the Laurelwood homes and a 6-acre area designated a "Do Not Disturb" area near the planned unimpeded civilian entrance at the eastern-most point (on the map that we've linked, near the blue circle on the right) of Macassar Road, within Weapons Station Earle.

In addition to EPA Region 2 Strategic Planning Chief John Filippelli, NOPE has sent similar letters to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Mark Mauriello, Monmouth County Public Health Coordinator Michael Meddis, as well as to Thomas Frieden, Administrator for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) in Atlanta, GA.

This latest environmental discovery was the handiwork of Diana Piotrowski, NOPE's Communications Director, who upon reviewing the Laurelwood Final EIS for the umpteenth time, this time against an ATSDR Public Health Assessment of Weapons Station Earle in August of 2006, identified that Site 1 (shown in Appendix A-1 in the ATSDR's report) "is restricted" and portrayed as an area with "infrequent" human contact.

In short, Site 1 (one of 29 EPA Superfund sites at NWS Earle) was an area where the Navy burned ordnance materials from 1943-1975 and was thereafter plowed over and burned (using diesel-soaked hay) three times and declared as a restricted area. ATSDR's map (see Figure 2 on page 41 of the report) put Site 1 at about the same spot where part of Alternative 4 is expected to run, prompting us to question whether the U.S. Navy's EIS guidance and selection of route Alternative #4 infringes upon a restricted environmental area.

Our letters to the above-noted agencies request clarification to NOPE about this coincidence, if not a full-scale investigation into the convergence of ATSDR Site 1 and Laurelwood Final EIS Alternative 4, and the impact of road construction to that area, not to mention potential harmful exposure to chromium, explosives compounds and petroleum hydrocarbons to both Naval personnel residing in Stark Road Housing and the presumed civilian occupants at Laurelwood.

NOPE welcomes any contact with resident environmental experts on this issue, and encourages you to email or call us (732.322.0130) pertaining to this issue if you can assist in our environmental challenges of the Laurelwood civilian housing plan. Otherwise, we will keep you posted here on the EPA, DEP, Monmouth County and ATSDR response to our query.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Navy in motion on DEP permit application; no major surprise

NOPE has obtained a copy of NAVFAC's (the Navy's facilities management arm) letter of intent to apply for permits on its planned civilian access route thru Weapons Station Earle and to the Laurelwood housing development - a perceived first step in the Navy's plans to begin work on the project. We have attached a copy of the letter submitted August 6, 2009 to the DEP, though the language does not make clear whether the Navy is simply lining up its environmental maps with those of the state's environmental watchdog, or whether this is a sort of "fast-track" effort to obtain permits.

If you recall, it appears that the Navy has until April 30, 2010, to fully clear the route (i.e. remove trees, handle wetlands issues) upon which Laurelwood Homes LLC, the owner of the 300 homes at Weapons Station Earle to be converted to civilian housing, would then pay for and pave the road before opening up the homes for rental to any civilian.

Unless the DEP officials we met and our state representatives blatently lied to NOPE that the DEP will not fast-track the permits, we suspect that the Navy will breach its contract with Laurelwood (i.e., unable to complete the clearing work by the end of next April, per terms of the contract) and Mrs. Fischer, owner of the 300 homes, will sue the Navy, sending the fate of the proposed civilian housing project into litigation.

NOPE will remain in contact with District 12 Senator Beck and Assembly members O'Scanlan and Casagrande on this issue, asking them to watchdog the DEP to ensure that NAVFAC is not given fast-track permits or precedence over other applications in the DEP's permit queue.