TRENTON, NJ—Rutgers professor Peter F. Strom has been appointed to serve on the New Jersey Site Remediation Professional Licensing Board (SRPLB), which plays crucial role in protecting New Jersey’s environment and cleaning up hazardous waste.
Strom, a Highland Park resident, has been appointed to be the academic community representative on the board, and has begun serving his four-year term this summer.
Strom holds a B.S. in Physical Science from MIT, as well as a Ph.D. in Environmental Science from Rutgers, where has taught since 1980.
Although the legistlation creating the board was passed more than five years ago, until Strom’s appointment, the board had been operating without a required “academic community” representative since its inception.
Governor Chris Christie’s office first announced Strom’s appointment on October 9, 2014, but the Highland Park resident was away on sabbatical and the State Senate never approved that nomination.
On May 14, Christie re-filed the nomination, and the Senate approved Strom on June 25.
The SRPLB is responsible for overseeing the licensing and performance of Licensed Site Remediation Professionals (LSRP’s), private consultants that are responsible for investigating contamination and remediating sites with hazardous waste throughout New Jersey.
It is the task of the board to monitor the performance of LSRP’s to make sure that they are preforming their jobs ethically and within the provisions of the SRRA. The board also maintains the right to revoke the license of an LSRP who violates these provisions.
LSRP’s were first introduced by the 2009 Site Remediation Reform Act (SRRA), which brought sweeping changes to the way in which contaminated sites are remediated in New Jersey.
The job of an LSRP is to supervise the cleanup of contaminated sites and ensure that the remediation tactics used are protective of public health, safety, and the environment.
The board is supposed to hold licensees to high professional standards, not only technically, but also ethically.
Although the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) still has final authority, much of the hazardous waste cleanup oversight work it used to do is now done by the private sector, something that has caused concern among environmental protection advocates.
The private sector taking over this responsibility is particularly concering, critics say, because the consulting firm which designs and implements a cleanup plan also approves it.
Supporters of the privatized system say that the use of licensed specialists allows site cleanups to be initiated sooner and finished quicker, and that responsible parties no longer have to wait for NJDEP approval to begin or continue a cleanup.
The board consists of 13 members, including the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the State Geologist.
The remainder of the board is made up of 11 public representatives who serve without compensation.
Strom’s research at Rutgers has been mostly focused on the microbial ecology of the biological treatment of waste, and he also teaches classes in hazardous waste management as well as introductory classes in environmental science.
Strom has done work on the composting of municipal waste, the biodegrading of plastics, and bio filtration to remove contaminants from gas streams, and received two national awards: the Harrison Prescott Eddy Medal of the Water Environment Federation, and the National Recycling Congress Award.