N.J. officials check for potential hazards in abandoned buildings

    New Jersey officials are cataloging forgotten hazards in deserted buildings across Camden.

    Irene Kropp, deputy commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, said the program aims to give firefighters a peek inside abandoned buildings before they show up to help in an emergency.

    “This initiative was all about overburdened communities, urban communities with abandoned buildings, that we know that people have walked away because they are bankrupt, and they’ve left contaminants behind,” Kropp said.

    Officials began working on the pilot program last year after a rash of fires in the city.

    Camden Fire Chief Michael Harper joined a property tour on Haddon Avenue Wednesday.

    “You know you have drums right here with unknown hazards in it,” Harper said. ” You have a compressed cylinder in that room there, the floor joist is cracked here, cracked there, all that stuff is hazardous to us.”

    Harper said dispatchers will relay property and hazard information to first-responders on the way to a scene.

    Officials inspected about 30 abandoned properties to compile the pilot database in Camden. Planners say they initially chose the largest commercial sites with the biggest risks.

    The property sweeps have turned up needles, paint and propane tanks among other debris.

    New Jersey’s Right to Know Act requires businesses to detail the hazardous chemicals used at their facilities but Kropp said that program is designed for operating companies, and is little help in locating hazards left at shuttered businesses by irresponsible property owners.

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