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For Immediate Release:  
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August 3, 2006

Office of The Attorney General
- Zulima V. Farber, Attorney General


Lee Moore


AG Farber Announces Investigation
of Contamination at South Jersey Day Care Site;
"Kiddie Kollege" Closed Down After Testing Revealed Excessive Mercury Levels

TRENTON – 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 with mercury.

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.

Farber 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" situation.

"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 2004.

Until it halted operations on July 28, Kiddie Kollege had been providing day care services for children ages 8 months to 13 years old.

"As 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."

New 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.

"The 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 Commissioner added.

Said 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."

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