– Attorney General Zulima V. Farber
announced today that her office is investigating
how a South Jersey day care center came
to be operating on the site of a former
industrial property that is contaminated
Located in Franklin Township, Gloucester
County, the Kiddie Kollege day care center
on Delsea Drive voluntarily halted operations
in late July after both the Department of
Environmental Protection and the Department
of Health and Senior Services determined
the building was not fit for occupancy.
The determination was made on the basis
of air and surface samples that found unacceptably
high levels of mercury throughout the building.
A naturally occurring element, mercury is
toxic to humans when inhaled or ingested.
said the Attorney General’s Office
is working in cooperation with the DEP and
the DHSS to determine who is responsible
for what she termed an "outrageous"
"Through daily exposure to excessive
levels of a known contaminant, children
and their care-givers potentially have been
put in harms way, and that is unconscionable,"
said Attorney General Farber. "There
are many, many questions that must be answered
with regard to how this was allowed to occur."
The single-story Kiddie Kollege building
was formerly the site of Accutherm, Inc.,
a manufacturer of thermometers and related
instruments. Accutherm ceased operations
at the site more than a decade ago.
The site was subsequently obtained via lease
by Kiddie Kollege which, after renovating
the property with paving and cosmetic improvements,
reopened it as a day care center in January
Until it halted operations on July 28, Kiddie
Kollege had been providing day care services
for children ages 8 months to 13 years old.
soon as the DEP discovered that the formerly
abandoned site was housing a day care center,
inspectors moved in, took samples and shut
it down," said DEP Commissioner Lisa
P. Jackson. "We remain committed to
working with the AG's office and DHSS to
get to the bottom of this egregious and
unconscionable situation. A day care center
should be a safe haven -- not a room full
of toxic mercury."
Jersey Health and Senior Services Commissioner
Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., said that, "Exposure
to mercury is a serious health concern,
and the Department acted quickly to protect
children and staff by recommending that
everyone vacate the building until further
notice – which is the most important
and effective way of protection.
Department is working with the center operators
and local public health officials to test
for mercury exposure among children and
staff to determine what, if any, additional
health measures should be taken," the
Attorney General Farber, "It is hard
to fathom how this could have happened,
but we are committed to finding out how,
and to holding the responsible parties accountable."