Investigation ordered into polluted New Jersey daycare site
FRANKLINVILLE, N.J. – New Jersey’s attorney general has ordered an investigation into why a daycare center where dozens of children were exposed to toxic mercury fumes was allowed to operate in a former thermometer factory.Attorney General Zulima Farber called the situation at Kiddie Kollege “outrageous.”The center closed July 28 after owners were told of the mercury fumes.More than 30 children were exposed to toxic mercury vapors at the center and dozens more may have been affected. The children were being tested to determine whether they suffered any health problems from the exposure.The state Department of Environmental Protection found “unacceptably high” levels of mercury at the site during a random check last month.The small brick building used by the daycare center since 2004 was on the DEP’s list of known contaminated sites in 2001 but not on the list in 2006.”So where did it go? How did it fall off?” Franklin Township Mayor David Ferrucci demanded.DEP officials were unable to immediately provide an explanation.The building housed thermometer maker Accutherm Inc., until it went bankrupt in 1994, according to DEP spokeswoman Elaine Makatura. The DEP had ordered Williamsburg, Va.-based Accutherm to clean up any leftover mercury at the site in 1995.The building was unoccupied until 2001 when it was purchased by Navillus Group L.L.C. for about $44,000 in back taxes. The deed was then transferred for $1 to Jim Sullivan Inc., a real estate company whose headquarters are across the street from the site.DEP workers were surprised to find the daycare center occupying the building when they went there last month to conduct tests.”We didn’t even know there was a daycare center that had set up shop there,” Makatura told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “We believed it was abandoned. We don’t know how this occurred.”Mercury of the type used in thermometers and fluorescent light bulbs can evaporate into an invisible, odorless toxic vapor. It can damage the central nervous system as well as cause loss of appetite, headaches, shaking and memory loss.