New Jersey considers streamlining state purchase of homes on contaminated properties

Assemblyman John Wisniewski proposes allowing the DEP access to funds to purchase homes residents bought not knowing they were on contaminated properties. (AP file photo)

Assemblyman John Wisniewski proposes allowing the DEP access to funds to purchase homes residents bought not knowing they were on contaminated properties. (AP file photo)

New Jersey lawmakers are considering legislation that would allow the state to buy homes on contaminated sites to protect the health of residents.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski said his bill would allow the Department of Environmental Protection to use money from the Spill Compensation Fund to purchase homes that residents bought not knowing they were on contaminated properties.

“Right now under the law, the only thing you can use the funds for is remediation. This would extend it in a very limited number of cases,” said Wisniewski, D-Middlesex. “It would be a simpler, cheaper solution for the state using that same pot of money to be able to buy the house, knock down the house, cap the site, and let everybody move on.”

New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel said it’s a good way to help people avoid health risks from living in a home on contaminated property that no one else would buy.

“Because it’s a residence, it has to be cleaned up to a very clean standard — which it should be. But the problem is that you have a house on top of it, so you can’t get underneath the house to actually clean it up to that standard,” Tittel said.

“It makes a lot more sense to use the Spill Act money, which is money coming from pollution spills not from taxpayers, to take down the house, clean up the site, and turn it into parkland.”

New Jersey has spent nearly a million dollars trying to clean up one home on contaminated property in Sayreville without eliminating the problem, Wisniewski said.

His bill was passed by the Assembly, and it’s awaiting action in the Senate.

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