There were plenty of red faces at both the state and local level last August when elevated levels of mercury were found at Kiddie Kollege, a child care center in Gloucester County, NJ that had been allowed to be built on the site of a polluted former thermometer factory.
The discovery led to the closing of the facility and testing of children and staff. Legislation was enacted to prevent a repeat of such an oversight and the DEP double-checked its records of environmentally troubled properties to make sure no other child care centers were sitting on equally dangerous properties.
As an additional precaution, all of the state's 4,000 child-care centers are now required to obtain DEP approval as a condition of license renewal. The Department faces some 100 applications a month and facility operators say they expect to pay between $1200 and $4,000 each for engineering certifications that DEP will accept. The deadline for the first batch of license renewal applications to hit the Department is June 1.
Yesterday, the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee took quick action on a brand new bill, A-4285, sponsored by committee chairman John McKeon (D-Esssex). It would provide grants to facility operators funded by the state's Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund.
With the Legislature scheduled to recess for the summer by July 4, the bill will need to move with unusual speed to provide help in time for many facing license renewals in upcoming months.