TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senator Fred Madden which would allow owners and operators of licensed child care centers to be reimbursed for the cost of hazardous site ground and building contamination assessments to check for contaminant levels in soil and work to help prevent ground contamination like what occurred at Kiddie Kollege was unanimously approved today by the full Senate.
Kiddie Kollege was a daycare center in Franklinville, Gloucester County, which was shut down in July of 2006 after workers in the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) discovered that the center had been operating on the former site of an Accutherm mercury thermometer factory for over two years.
“This legislation is about helping to protect a very special segment of our most vulnerable citizens – our children,” said Senator Madden, D-Camden and Gloucester. “When companies decide to dump hazardous waste into our ground and water supply, they are putting local residents at risk. It is our job to make sure that the centers that care for our children are safe and free from harmful contaminants.”
“The assessments will cost an estimated $1,500 a piece, which could pose financial burden on many of the smaller centers. This legislation would help to ease that burden so that the centers can focus their energy on taking care of our children,” Senator Madden said.
The Kiddie Kollege situation was the impetus for new legislation signed into law in January, regarding licensing rules and requirements for child care centers that are located on former industrial sites, Senator Madden said.
Senator Madden’s bill, S-2737, would amend the Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund to permit the allocation of funds to be given as grants to reimburse child care center owners and operators for the cost of the site assessments.
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would be responsible for establishing procedures for the child care centers to apply for financial assistance. The bill would also require the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to establish a procedure for eligible child care centers to apply for this assistance.
Currently, the Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund has a balance of $90 million. The DEP estimates that the grant program would cost between $6 million and $7 million, said Senator Madden.
The measure now heads to the Governor’s desk where his signature would make it State law.