Dirty Little Secrets: What’s the verdict on New Jersey's decision to privatize toxic cleanups?

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December 11, 2015



WHAT'S THE VERDICT ON NJ'S DECISION TO PRIVATIZE TOXIC CLEANUPS?
The state of New Jersey has a reputation for foul-smelling smokestacks that rise above the Turnpike. But New Jersey also contains thousands of smaller contaminated sites hidden in plain view — gas stations, dry cleaners, factories, schools, and even homes. Cleaning up all of these sites became such a burden on the state that, in 2009, Gov. Jon Corzine signed the Site Remediation Reform Act to deal with remediation more quickly. WHYY looks into NJ's decision to privatize toxic cleanups.
SHUTTERED GAS STATIONS OFTEN SIT ATOP TOXIC SLUDGE
It's not just oil tanks underneath homes that are creating toxic and financial nightmares. NJTV concluded its three-part series last night with a piece about the state's many shuttered gas stations, many of which sit atop fields of toxic sludge. You can see many of the abandoned gas stations, but others are now grassy fields or have had unrelated businesses built atop them, and the unseen poisons have the potential to seep into nearby apartments through basements or contaminate reservoirs that supply drinking water to the state. According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, NJTV reports, about 5,000 such sites were remediated last year, but an almost equal number were discovered -- and 28 percent have no remediation plans.
WNYC'S BRIAN LEHRER SHOW FEATURES DLS COLLABORATION
Popular WNYC talk show host Brian Lehrer discussed the Dirty Little Secrets investigation yesterday with reporter Sarah Gonzalez, who reported that 90 percent of New Jerseyeans live within a mile of a contaminated underground site -- but a disproportionate number of poor, black and Hispanic residents live near one without a cleanup plan.   These stories are part of a collaborative effort called "Dirty Little Secrets," a series investigating New Jersey's toxic legacy. Participating news partners include New Jersey Public Radio/WNYCWHYY/NewsworksNJTVNJ SpotlightJersey Shore Hurricane NewsWBGONew Brunswick Today, NJ Spark, and the Rutgers Department of Journalism and Media Studies. The collaboration is facilitated by The Center for Investigative Reporting, with help from the Center for Cooperative Media. The project is made possible with support from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.
Stay tuned for more stories from this series all week – and in the coming weeks. You can join the conversation on social media by using the hashtag #ToxicNJ.   •    •    •
  EAGLETON: CHRISTIE HITS LOWEST APPROVAL RATING EVER
Governor Christie's approval rating fell 6 points since October, and his unfavorable rating stands at a high of 59 percent, the Eagleton Poll reported yesterday. Politico has the story.
GOODBYE, 'NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND.' HELLO, 'EVERY STUDENT SUCCEEDS ACT'
The US Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a rewrite of the fabled 'No Child Left Behind Act,' which increased accountability to districts and schools across the country for the past fourteen years. NJ Spotlight looks at the rewrite and explores what the changes mean for students in New Jersey.
PORT AUTHORITY VOTES TO ASSUME LEAD ROLE IN $20B HUDSON RIVER RAIL TUNNEL PROJECT
The Port Authority's commissioners voted yesterday to assume the lead role in a $20 billion project that is expected to double the rail capacity between New York and New Jersey. The Record says the unanimous vote empowers the Port Authority's executive director, Patrick Foye, to establish the Gateway Development Corporation, which will oversee the financing and construction of new railway lines and bridges east of Newark and – this is the big fish for commuters – a new two-tube rail tunnel under the Hudson River.
TWO NJ CITIES TOP LIST OF US METRO FORECLOSURES RATES FOR NOVEMBER
Atlantic City and Trenton had the highest US metropolitan foreclosure rates in November, according to the latest national figures. TruNews/Reuters says it was the fifth straight month for Atlantic City and the surrounding area as a poster child for US foreclosures. One in every 307 homes in or around Atlantic City had a foreclosure filing in November.
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: We've extended the deadline for submissions to our statewide undergraduate reporting contest, which boasts a grand price of $650. We will now be accepting submissions until April 1, 2016. The best submissions will be included and published as part of our Dirty Little Secrets project with the Center for Investigative Reporting.
Want more? Check out our must-reads here.

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