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Is NJ at Risk For a Toxic Chemical Disaster? DEP Says No [AUDIO]

A new report by the New Jersey Work Environment Council (WEC) says millions of Garden State residents are still at risk from toxic chemical disasters five years after the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) adopted rules to implement the New Jersey Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act that were supposed to drastically reduce that risk. A DEP spokesman calls the report “sheer nonsense.”

Toxic Chemicals
Daniel Berehulak, Getty Images

According to the report, 90 New Jersey facilities still use large quantities of highly hazardous chemicals that can pose a potential catastrophic safety and health risk to millions of workers and the public if there were a worst-case toxic release caused by an incident or deliberate attack. These facilities are located in 19 of the state’s 21 counties. The WEC claims the Christie Administration isn’t doing enough to enforce rules to reduce risk.

“It’s really wrong,” said Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the DEP, referring to the report. “It’s misleading. It’s misguided. It’s really sheer nonsense.”

The WEC and its members blame Gov. Chris Christie’s administration for not enforcing the existing rules requiring chemical facilities to reduce risk.

“Gov. Christie’s philosophy is that we don’t need enforceable safety standards because industry will voluntarily protect workers and the public, but the facilities’ own reports show that approach is not working,” said John Shinn, director of United Steelworkers District 4, the largest union of workers at oil and chemical facilities in New Jersey.

The director of the NJ Sierra club, Jeff Tittel said the Christie administration has cut enforcement of the rules by a third and has reduced the number of inspections at chemical plants.

“That’s nonsense. It really is,” said Hajna. “It is just so off target that I’m beyond words. They’re doing a great disservice by alarming the public to think that there is a problem out there.”

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