Blood to Murphy: Don’t mess with our students’ health — close Keegan for good

Editor’s note: The following letter was sent to Gov. Phil Murphy by Kearny Superintendent of Schools Patricia Blood on 26 Aug. 2019. It is reprinted here with her blessing.

Dear Governor Murphy:

As the Superintendent of the Kearny School District, providing a safe and healthy environment for Kearny’s students is of the utmost concern to me.  I am writing to implore your assistance regarding the high hydrogen sulfide content readings that have been registered at the Keegan Landfill located on Bergen Avenue in Kearny; this is a major health concern for all residents of Kearny.

The Keegan Landfill abuts Harvey Field, the home field of both our award-winning boys’ and girls’ soccer teams. In the past month, excessive hydrogen sulfide readings have forced the closure of Harvey Field on three occasions — July 23, July 24, and July 25, 2019. Furthermore, the high reading of H2S on Aug. 14 necessitated the cancellation not only of the teams’ soccer practices, but also of the high school’s band practice taking place in the Kearny High School stadium, which is located three short blocks from the Keegan Landfill.

As our Fall sports season is about to begin, we are struggling to provide alternative sites in the event our fields are closed due to H2S concerns.

Additionally, the recently-enacted law requiring 20 minutes of outdoor recess presents further trepidation.  Franklin Elementary School, which houses 900-plus students in pre-K through grade 6, is located just one block from the Keegan Landfill, and its fields, frighteningly, are even closer to the Keegan Landfill. Now, in the interest of safety and health, students will not be permitted to use their school’s outdoor play areas whenever an exceedence reading of H2S is recorded.

As a parent, I share the understandable concerns of the Kearny community regarding the unacceptable readings and noxious odors emanating from the Keegan Landfill. It is a known fact that levels above 30 parts per billion could have a serious impact on the health of individuals exposed and can exacerbate existing health conditions such as asthma.  This creates the potential of a serious disruptive effect on the educational process for every student attending Franklin Elementary School and Kearny High School.

This situation is not something that can be ignored or put on hold. The danger and potential ramifications of the failure of our state government to address the educational, athletic and recreational scenarios facing the students of Kearny’s schools are not acceptable. The health and safety of all residents, most especially our children, must be a top priority. Our student-athletes have a right to practice their skills and compete with other teams without the burden of doing so to the detriment of their health and safety, and our younger students should be able to use their school’s field for fun and exercise.

Kearny Schools reopened Sept. 5, and it is incumbent upon the State of New Jersey to address and correct this situation quickly and permanently.

Patricia Blood
Kearny Superintendent of Schools

Editor’s note: Mrs. Blood also copied this letter to U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Robert Menendez; Reps. Bill Pascrell Jr. and Albio Sires; Dr. Lamont Repollet, education commissioner; Catherine R. McCabe, EPA commissioner; state Sen. Nicholas Sacco; Hudson County Freeholder Albert Cifelli; Kearny Mayor Alberto G. Santos and all members of the Town Council; and all members of the Kearny Board of Education.

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