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Corzine asked to prevent schools from being built atop pollution

Roy Jones, South Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance speaks at Trenton news conference on Toxic Schools. (sorry, Star Ledger deleted this photo from my NJ Voices column)


Today’s Star Ledger reports:

Corzine asked to prevent schools from being built atop pollution
by Dunstan McNichol/The Star-Ledger
Wednesday June 25, 2008, 1:46 PM

“Environmentalists and community activists today called on Gov. Jon Corzine to order studies to ensure New Jersey schools will not be erected on dangerously polluted properties.

“You should not allow a situation to occur where your children are in jeopardy,” said Algernon Ward, a Trenton activist who led the campaign to tear down a partially built elementary school that was built atop contaminated fill, at today’s Statehouse press conference. “It’s a tragedy.”

Demolishing and rebuilding the Martin Luther King Elementary School in Trenton has cost the state’s school construction program about $27 million.

Participants in today’s press conference said it is among hundreds of millions of dollars in school funds that have been spent because of pollution on the school sites chosen by the state’s $8.6 billion school building program.

Existing schools, meanwhile, feature poor ventilation, contamination and pollution that barrage students with dangerous toxins, said Jane Nogaki, of the New Jersey Environmental Federation.

On Monday, lawmakers approved another $3.9 billion in borrowing for the construction program, prompting the activists to demand an executive order from Corzine that would set up a commission to analyze the problem and solutions for what they called “toxic schools.”

“We need to make sure the dollars are spent to protect the healthof children, not put them at risk,” said Roy Jones, co-chair of the South Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance. “There is no rule, no standard, no regulation to protect the health and safety of children.”
[end Ledger story]

For photo essay, see:
Polluted land and urban schools – A photo essay


For analysis, see:

Calling Out Scott Weiner on school reforms

School funds must be linked to reforms

NEW JERSEY SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION REFORM GETS FAILING MARKS — No Environmental Reviews Prior to Building More Schools on Toxic Sites

NEW JERSEY LEAVES DOOR OPEN FOR MORE SCHOOLS ON TOXIC SITES — Governor’s “Working Group” Dodges Question of Acquiring Toxic Land for Schools

RADIOACTIVE SCHOOL SITE IS TIP OF NEW JERSEY TOXIC ICEBERG — Over 100 School Site approvals expedited under Secret Deal

  1. unprovincial
    June 25th, 2008 at 19:42 | #1

    And I believe the schools are purposely located on contaminated property in order to provide even more “pay to play” contracted work to engineering firm and builders (every one of which has a subsidiary or sister firm in environmental cleanup).
    And in addition to the permit extension act, developers are pushing “fast track” assessment and remediation of sites. So you can count on a lot of these schools needing to be torn down someday, but the politicians who made it all possible will be living off their multiple state pensions by then.

  2. JerseyOpine
    June 25th, 2008 at 19:55 | #2

    8.6 BILLION gone, another 3.9 BILLION soon to follow. And where are we – talking about the need for a study & a commission to find suitable sites to build. Shouldn’t that have been part of the deal the first time around?
    This is further proof that the state is not competent to handle either this project or this money. Doesn’t matter whether you’re calling it SCC or SDA.

  3. ferdek
    June 25th, 2008 at 20:22 | #3

    Bill: who will give your “outrage” legal standing to compel a sane school location policy? What group can get a restraining Order to compel Corzine to stop building schools on contaminated properties? Do you have any allies in the Legislature who are willing to put your “outrages” into laws and DEP regs?

  4. blarneyboy
    June 25th, 2008 at 20:25 | #4

    It’s obvious the Corzine-Codey-Roberts machine pushes us into debt, not for the children, but for the contractors who, in turn, take care of the Dem Party.
    And the Supremes do what their told to do. Hardly gutsy or even honest.

  5. nohesitation
    June 25th, 2008 at 20:39 | #5

    ferdek – you ask exactly the right questions.
    As far as I know, the Education Law Center is the lead on Abbott litigation, and this issue has just not been on their legal radar screen. But I am not plugged in to the education community.
    There may be some legislative allies, but the tide is firmly opposed – this issue would force real cleanups of sites, and the major corporate polluters (petro-chemical and pharmaceutical) see it as a real strategic threat – plus the builders fear further economic hurdles and regulatory restrictions on housing construction.
    We are up against the t3 most powerful lobbies – very little chance in the legislature right now, but we hope to change that political dynamic.

  6. nohesitation
    June 25th, 2008 at 20:45 | #6

    ferdek – Let me give you another example of abuse in the Executive Branch;
    Corzine signed the Kiddie Kollege” law in January 2007. Among other things, that law requires that standards be developed for indoor exposures. Set at levels to protect children. Within 1 year. Thus far – no action.
    Shortly after the ink was dry on the bill, the AG issued a legal opinion that gutted it by saying the law did not apply to existing schools.
    DEP has misinterpreted other provisions of the same law to expedite school construction on toxic sites BEFORE site-wide cleanup and “No Further Action” letter, as mandated by the law. Talk to the folks in Clifton about that. Or in Allentowen, where DEP aevaded cleanup standards by allowing pesticide contamaitned soils to be “blened” with clean soils to evade cleanup standards. Or sites where DEP allows caps (including the slab basement of school buildings) to cover up toxics.
    The abuses go on and on….

  7. ferdek
    June 26th, 2008 at 07:35 | #7

    NH: At some point DEP employees must know that they are part of a conspiracy to violate the very laws needed to assure a healthy environment for our children. How much longer can they fall back on “I was only following orders” defense when it all hits the fan? Further, the labor unions clearly have a fiduciary duty to help their members when these obvious conflicts of conscience occur on a daily basis. When the AG belatedly issued her “opinion” did anyone challenge it in court? It’s only her “opinion” not law. The corrosive effect of “clout” on the public interest seems to be near record levels. Why hasn’t NJPIRG/Citizen’s Action/NJEA seen these trends and recognized the deadly consequences of continued forbearance? Shocking!

  8. unprovincial
    June 26th, 2008 at 08:19 | #8

    Ferdek:: You seem to not realize that the way DEP has evolved over the years is to place spineless yes-men & women in “mgmt” positions and require everyone else to go “up the chain of command”. For people who are used to thinking for themselves and acting on their conscience, keeping their jobs becomes a real challenge. Many leave or continue but are relegated to lower positions in pay and responsibility. The maxim of “rising to their level of incompetence” and answering to the politician in charge (in this case the governor) is a problem in any burearcracy. But coupled with the past industrial nature and resulting pollution in NJ and the overwhelming power of local and state politicians who are “on the take”, the problem gets much worse. And you would not believe the tactics used by “mgmt” to keep those of us who speak up in our places. I have never seen such underhanded and vicious behavior by provincial, jealous, backbiting children as as DEP.

  9. nohesitation
    June 26th, 2008 at 09:25 | #9

    ferdek – don’t blame the victim – DEP staffers face retailaition in speaking truth to power, as do many employees in the private sector that witness abusem, fraud and corruption they rarely disclose.
    The AG memo in question is secret – I have filed OPRA requesting t but been denied. I can’t even get a hold of it!!!
    More than 2 credible high level inside government sources have confirmed to me that it exists – in both legislative and executive branches.

  10. ferdek
    June 26th, 2008 at 12:14 | #10

    NH- I didn’t say it would be easy but there is a natural coalition between workers who are told to violate DEP R&Rs and the unions that represent them and the environmental public interest groups. The political management somehow has to be exposed to “criminal” prosecution for ordering DEP employees to violate laws. Again where are the “high profile” public interest groups, the Public Advocate and say the Inspector General? Re the AG “opinion” I am shocked that it is not available through OPRA. Does she deserve some sanctions from the courts for her complicity? It just seems that a virtual take-over of the state is required to bring these folks back under control. And we call this a Democracy!

  11. unprovincial
    June 26th, 2008 at 22:21 | #11

    Ferdek: Some “environmental public interest groups” have reported to DEP the name of the person who fed them the information in the name of proving that it was true. Of course DEP subsequently denied everything and then retaliated against the accuser. A person learns fast that you can’t necessarily trust the environmentalists to keep your name secret. And you really can’t trust the governor’s office. PEER keeps the source secret as well as some journalists. But not all. It’s a very tricky tightrope walk.

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