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NJ DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION NEWS RELEASE
RELEASE: 4/5/01
01/27
CONTACT: Sharon A. Southard or Amy Collings
609-984-1795 or 609-292-2994

BERGEN COUNTY RECEIVES $158,905 TIRE ROUND UP CHECK FROM DEP TO FIGHT WEST NILE VIRUS

Department of Environmental Protection Assistant Commissioner of Environmental Regulation Dennis Hart today presented a $158,905 check to Bergen County officials to help the county reduce the mosquito population as part of a statewide effort to combat the West Nile virus.

The money is part of a $2.4 million state grant program to help counties clean-up scrap tires which serve as excellent breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Hart presented the check to Bergen County Utilities Authority Chairman Benedict Focarino at an abandoned tire pile site located on Paterson Plant Road in East Rutherford.

Acting Governor Donald T. DiFrancesco said, "Working together, state and local government can effectively address the serious problem of mosquito breeding grounds such as the millions of discarded tires that are currently laying around the state. I applaud the work done by the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Health and Senior Services in fighting the spread of the West Nile virus, and am committed to supporting this worthwhile program."

State Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Shinn said in a prepared statement, "One of our strongest defenses in combating the West Nile virus is prevention. The reckless discarding of scrap tires on the state's roadsides, parks, vacant lots and open spaces compounds this problem. Just one tire can serve as a breeding ground for thousands of mosquitoes."

Shinn stated Bergen County's tire clean-up plan will offer free monthly tire amnesty days for a six-month period at three locations in addition to the removal of illegally dumped tires from vacant lots, roadsides and parks.

Additionally, Shinn praised county officials for establishing a number of successful environmental initiatives including Bergen's Municipal Recycling Assistance Program for recycling and waste reduction, and telephone hotline numbers for the West Nile virus and computer recycling. Shinn stated that Bergen's computer and electronics recycling program has gone a long way in preventing toxic materials and heavy materials found in the computers from ending up in a landfill and hurting the environment.

"Through this initiative, Bergen County officials and residents are extending the life of existing landfills, conserving energy and maybe most importantly, reducing greenhouse gas emissions," he stated. "I was also pleased to learn that Bergen County recycled more than a million tons of material including tires, wood, metal, paper, bottles and cans in 1999," said Shinn. "This is a step in the right direction in preserving natural resources for future generations."

Bergen County has won four awards from the Association of Environmental Authorities for public education and household hazardous waste management.

Bergen County is the fourth to receive a tire round up grant for scrap tire collection. The funding is based on the Clean Communities Program formula for road miles since abandoned tires are a form of litter. Bergen has 445 road miles which entitles it to a 6.62% of the funding.

According to Shinn, the county's tire round-up grant represents just one aspect of the state's tire clean-up program. DEP, he says, is working with other state agencies on a program to clean up the two dozen so-called "orphan tire dumps" around the state that have existed for 30 years.

The state unveiled its 2001 West Nile virus plan in February. The comprehensive plan will include enhanced mosquito control activities and increased human, animal and mosquito surveillance and testing so those working to control the virus will be able to more effectively determine its intensity, geographic spread and impact. The plan also includes a public education campaign to take personal protective measures during the mosquito season.

To support the expanded effort, $2.5 million has been proposed in the FY2002 budget to heighten the state's ability to track and control the virus. The state has also applied for a $2 million grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Shinn reaffirmed the department's commitment not only to the tire round up program but also to recycling in general throughout the state.

"We must work together to find ways to provide long-term support for New Jersey's recycling community. We must all step up our efforts to encourage the purchase of recycled products at home, at work, and in schools and find ways to financially sustain recycling now and in the future."

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