FLEMINGTON, NJ - The Hunterdon County Board of Chosen Freeholders approved a resolution for a $296,164 grant award from the New New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, entitled the County Environmental Health Act (CEHA) grant, valid for the period of July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020.
Of the nearly $300,000, federal funding accounts for $145,156, State of New Jersey funds contribute $11,704 and Hunterdon County matching funds for the grant will total $139,304.
County CFO Janet Previte said services associated with the grant have been provided by the county since last July, without having a related contract in place.
“This is buttoning that service detail up, and we will allocate it appropriately into our 2020 county budget,” she said.
With board approval, Freeholder Director Shaun C. Van Doren was authorized to sign the grant award on behalf of Hunterdon County.
Health Department Director Karen DeMarco, MPH, explained that, since 1985, Hunterdon County has received this funding from the NJDEP.
“The DEP provides funding for the county to provide inspections to prevent pollution related to air, noise, solid waste and also hazardous materials,” she said. “Last year, our staff conducted 258 investigations related to that. The inspections covered many of Hunterdon County’s restaurants and hospitals which supply the general public with well water, and which requires additional water quality sampling and testing and for county staff to perform inspections.”
“We also respond to odor complaints, open fire/burning complaints and illegal dumping/solid waste, including tires or other products placed on people’s properties, so our staff will often go out to investigate that,” she added. "Solid waste and dumping not only impacts beautification of land in the county, but it also creates a mosquito habitat, vermin and other issues.”
There are currently 25 open complaints of solid waste pollution for Hunterdon officials to follow up on.
DeMarco added that there has been a recent expansion of the Hazardous Materials Response team (HAZMAT), as the county needed to increase its response team capabilities. HAZMAT members now include staff from the county health department, the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and county parks rangers and staff from the county Division of Communications.
“The HAZMAT team is managed by both the OEM and health department, and both of our divisions have responsibility to ensure the county can respond accordingly to hazardous materials situations and response,” DeMarco said. “Last year, the HAZMAT team responded to a total of 73 incidents ranging from diesel spills to white powder concerns and sulfuric acid incidents, smaller-scale incidents and also a fentanyl exposure in a first responder. We are continuing to train and exercise our HAZMAT team members, to ensure that they have all the capabilities that they need to, and grant funding largely supports that.”
In her health department report at the recent freeholders meeting, DeMarco spoke about the current influx of coronavirus, with cases established in the U.S. She provided a situational update on what they are seeing within this cold and flu season and in light of the coronavirus, along with some practical tactics for Hunterdon County residents and businesses.
“The risk to the general public does remain low,” she said. “We participated in a conference call with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the State Health Department, and that is still confirmed. There are no cases reported of the novel coronavirus within the state or in Hunterdon County. Risk does remain low, however there is high flu activity within the county and the state. The single best protection to keep yourselves and families healthy from novel coronavirus, influenza and all different respiratory viruses that cause cold and flu-like symptoms at this time of year is washing your hands frequently, especially for children once they return home from school and before eating.”