Bills Would Prevent Child-care Centers from Being Built on Contaminated Sites
(TRENTON) –The Senate and Assembly passed bills today sponsored by Senators Fred Madden and Steve Sweeney, Assemblymen David Mayer & Paul Moriarty that would require the state to establish a system to determine if prospective child-care facilities are free of industrial pollutants and other health hazards along with setting stricter penalties for violators.
This legislation was drafted in response to the discovery of mercury contamination at Kiddie Kollege, in Franklinville, Gloucester County, which was shut down in late July, after workers in the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) discovered it had been operating on the former site of an Accutherm mercury thermometer factory for over two years.
“The mercury found at the Kiddie Kollege site put the children, parents and teachers in danger, which is totally unacceptable,” said Senator Madden, D-Camden and Gloucester. “Mercury exposure can be especially harmful to young children because it can impair their mental, physical and emotional development. This is not about pointing fingers or determining fault, but instead focuses on preventing future situations like this one.”
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the safety of our children must be our top priority,” said Senator Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. “This bill takes the “Industrial Site Recovery Act” even further to address the need for the interiors of buildings housing child care centers or schools to be safe and toxin-free. Buildings like these house children for 8 hours a day, and it is imperative that they are as safe as possible.”
The measures (A-3529 and S-2261) would require the state Department of Health and Senior Services
(DHSS) to adopt procedures for the evaluation and assessment of the interior of buildings that are to be
used for day care centers or for educational purposes and standards that establish maximum contaminant levels for building interiors to be used for day care centers or for educational purposes, that are protective of the public health and safety. Under the bill, construction officials would be prohibited from issuing construction permits for construction on any site that does not meet the proposed DHSS standards.
“The Kiddie Kollege situation represents a catastrophic failure of checks and balances at all levels of government,” said Mayer (D-Gloucester/Camden). “We must do everything in our power to keep our children safe and healthy. This legislation will ensure that a situation similar to Kiddie College will never happen again.”
The bills will also amend the “Industrial Site Recovery Act” to require DHSS to establish procedures for evaluating and assessing the current and maximum contaminant levels of the interior of buildings being considered for use as child care centers or schools. People found violating the bill’s provisions would be subject to fines of up to $50,000 per day.
“Parents deserve to know that invisible dangers are not lurking at a place thought to be a safe haven,” said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This legislation will help ensure that a situation like the one at Kiddie Kollege will never occur again.”
The Assembly bill passed 78-0-2 and the Senate passed the bill 39-0. The Legislation now heads to the Governor for his signature.
The 4th Legislative District includes the towns of Clementon Borough, Franklin Township, Glassboro Borough, Gloucester Township, Laurel Springs Borough, Lindenwold Borough, Monroe Township, Newfield Borough, Pitman Borough and Washington Township.