BY BOB HOLT
According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, statistics are showing that N.J. is getting cleaner more quickly since it began privatizing the cleanup of toxic waste sites.
In previous years, contaminated lands often sat for years as state-assigned case managers pored over thousands of pages of paperwork about each case.
Now DEP numbers say that since N.J. began privatizing those cases in 2009, the monthly rate of completing them has risen almost 30 percent compared to the two years before, according to philly.com.
According to reason.org., then-Governor Jon Corzine signed a bill in 2009 allowing N.J. to permit licensed private consultants hired by polluters to determine how to clean up the properties and certify their safety. Corzine also signed an executive order allowing the DEP to use its oversight for sites intended for housing, schools, day-care facilities, athletic fields, or playgrounds.
But environmentalists have expressed concerns that if land is not being cleaned to state standards, they could present a health risk. Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said budget cuts coming from the sequestration will have direct effects on N.J.’s environment.
“The N.J. Department of Environmental Protection is anticipated to lose $4.891 million because of the sequestration,” Tittel wrote in NorthJersey.com. “This money would affect funding for clean water, air quality, and pollution prevention.”
“These cuts could have long-term consequences to the environment in New Jersey with more toxins from Superfund sites getting out into our neighborhoods,” Tittel added.
DEP officials say complaints by critics are unfounded. Spokesman Larry Hajna said, according to philly.com, "At this point, if they really looked at it honestly, they would say this is better. The old system really wasn't working."