Bayonne negotiates $15k settlement with state dept. of health over failure to submit paperwork

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The City of Bayonne has negotiated a $15,000 settlement with the New Jersey Department of Health after the prior administration did not file the proper paperwork associated with listing anything that could be considered a hazardous product in municipal buildings.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

The Bayonne City Council okayed the settlement to appear on the agenda for next week’s regularly scheduled meeting at last night’s caucus session.

Specifically, the local legislation would authorize the law department to negotiate a settlement with the NJDOH “to amicably resolve a certain ‘Right to Know’ deficiencies issued to the City by the Dept. of Health.”

The measure cites the $15,000 figure as “a reduced amount” that aims to benefit Bayonne’s taxpayers. The settlement is not official unless the city council approves it their meeting next week.

According to the NJDOH’s website, every municipality is required to supply a “Right to Know Hazardous Substance List.”

The purpose of this is to inform public employees of hazardous materials at their work place, as well as help first responders do their jobs in the event of a fire, explosion or chemical spill.

Bayonne Assistant Corporation Counsel Donna Donna Russo told HCV that the issue stemmed from the list, which typically includes products ranging anywhere from rock salt to Ajax, not being filed by the city in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Several residents in attendance at the caucus meeting had assumed that resolution meant that the City of Bayonne was being fined for not having a health officer on staff. However, according to the NJDOH this is not a possibility.

“The Right to Know settlement in Bayonne and the issue of whether the NJ Dept. of Health can impose fines on municipalities that don’t have health officers are two separate, unrelated issues,” NJDOH spokeswoman Donna Leusner said in an email to HCV.

“They are separate programs in the NJ Department of Health with separate rules. The Right to Know program in a municipality is not required to be in a local health department. On the issue of municipalities that do not have local health officers, Department of Health rules do not include a fine.”

Last month, NJDOH Leusner confirmed with HCV that Bayonne, Harrison, Union City and Weehawken have not had a certified health officer since June 30th, 2018.

Up until that point, those four municipalities had been using Vincent Rivelli, who was technically an employee with the City of Bayonne and worked with other neighboring departments as part of shared services agreements.

Following his retirement, no one has hired on a full-time replacement.

In July, Leusner indicated that the state isn’t able to do much to expedite the hiring process: they can withhold state public health funding (which none of these municipalities currently receive) or restrict participation in future grant opportunities.

On this separate issues, a Bayonne official said the matter would be resolved in their end “in short order.”