After the Flint water crisis, there seems to be increased interest in our immediate environmental concerns. It was recently reported that many New Jersey cities, including Plainfield, have a higher proportion of children with dangerous lead levels than in Flint, Michigan. Here it’s not from water contamination, but from paint.
At least most of the time. Earlier this month, Newark turned off the water in thirty of its schools when lead was found to be above the federal “action level”.
But the historically industrial Garden State has a bigger phenomenon – toxic sites. Around ninety percent of New Jersey residents live within one mile of such a site, most of which the Department of Environmental Protection claims are no risk to the public. The DEP has outsourced the cleanup to contractors who decide which sites are remediated, and when. The state maintains the right to step in when it deems there is immediate concern.
As you might expect, black and Latino residents are more likely to live by toxic sites, and toxic sites with no remediation plan. Poorer residents disproportionately live near these places as well.
The WNYC Data News team has mapped out all of the toxic sites in New Jersey, including Plainfield – click here. This interactive map shows whether or not a particular site has a clean up plan, and whether or not the state has deemed it a high priority.
You can listen to a seven minute WNYC interview with reporter Sarah Gonzalez below.