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Senate Approves Madden/Sweeney ‘Kiddie Kollege’ Bill

TRENTON – The Senate today approved a measure (38-1) sponsored by Senators Fred H. Madden and Steve Sweeney that would require the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) to adopt regulations establishing evaluation and assessment procedures for determining the safety of child care centers and schools.

“The traces of mercury found at the Kiddie Kollege site put the children, parents and teachers who frequented the center in danger, which is totally unacceptable,” said Senator Madden, D-Camden and Gloucester. “Mercury exposure can be extremely harmful to young children because it can impair mental, physical and emotional development. We must begin to consider the effects that chemical waste can have on sites catering to our youth because brain development occurs so rapidly in younger children. This bill is not about pointing fingers or even determining who was at fault, but instead we must focus our energies on making sure that statutes are put in place to help prevent future situations like this one.”

Kiddie Kollege was a Franklinville child care center, which was built on a site formerly occupied by a thermometer factory. Traces of mercury were found in soil at the center. An investigation is underway to determine who is at fault.

“As a parent, my number one commitment is to help protect the safety and well-being of my children,” said Senator Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. “The fact that the children who attended the Kiddie Kollege daycare center were exposed to mercury is an indication that somewhere down the line, someone dropped the ball. This legislation is absolutely necessary to help make sure that the land on and around daycare centers and other facilities that cater to children are free from harmful chemicals.”

The Senators’ bill, S-2261, would amend the “Industrial Site Recovery Act” to require the 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.

The bill would also direct DHSS to issue certification to applicants who alter existing buildings to make them conform to regulations. Applicants seeking permission to open a child care or educational facility would be required to submit the certification to construction officials before being permitted to build.

This measure was unanimously approved by the Senate Environment Committee on November 27. It now heads to the Assembly for consideration.