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DEP commissioner discusses challenges of new site remediation program

By - Last modified: March 1, 2011 at 10:09 AM

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The Licensed Site Remediation Professional Program to accelerate the cleanup of contaminated sites marks “a cultural change” for the department.

A month after Gov. Jon S. Corzine enacted the Site Remediation Reform Act, the state of Department of Environmental Protection has begun implementing the new legislation, but the process won’t be without its challenges, said Mark Mauriello, the agency’s acting commissioner, at a breakfast meeting of the Economic Development Association of New Jersey on June 5.

The new law — which establishes a Licensed Site Remediation Professional Program to accelerate the cleanup of contaminated sites — marks “a cultural change” for the department, Mauriello told a group of economic development experts at the Forsgate Country Club, in Monroe.

“Everything in the bill is brand new, and we have to build the program around that,” he said. Mauriello added that some longtime staffers at DEP’s Site Remediation Program were not in support of the legislation, since it would call for significant changes to how they handle casework in the future, he said.

DEP has started to prioritize site remediation cases, which will help to identify less-complicated cleanups to be handled by the licensed site professionals, while the department would focus on heavily contaminated or sensitive sites, he said. Mauriello also said he would be reassigning staff from other programs within the department to aid in the implementation process.

The LSRP program, along with some other DEP initiatives, “are key to our ability to survive in the future,” Mauriello said. Some 200 case managers currently handle roughly 20,000 known contaminated sites, though more are being uncovered through site investigations, he said.

Some of the cases, however, have not yet been assigned. “We keep accepting cases, but they’re not being processed, because there’s not enough people to do the work,” he said.

But Mauriello said fears about further reductions to DEP staff had been abated, as labor unions agreed June 4 to wage freezes and furloughs in exchange for no layoffs of state workers. The agency had been facing the prospect of cutting approximately 500 of its 3,000 employees this summer, he said. “To have this cloud lifted feels really good,” he said.

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