One of the main requirements for the licensing of a child care facility by the State of NJ is obtaining a RAO (Remedial Action Outcome) letter from a LSRP (Licensed Site Remediation Professional). To put it simply, the LSRP does an inspection of the facility + site and identifies any potential environmental hazards. LSRP are certified by the state, but are not civil workers. They are consultants from private companies. The RAO is the report that the LSRP provides to you and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection. NJ DEP has very specific guidelines that the LSRP must follow to inspect the site. Any issues identified will have to be remediated, again following stringent guidelines.
The process was established in 2009 to help with the huge backlog of environmental issues confronting the DEP. With regards to daycares, it has helped to expedite the Child Care center licensing process. Also parents can rest assured all newly NJ licensed daycares have gone through this vigorous inspection process and are generally environmentally safe.
That’s the brief background on the RAO\LSRP requirement. With all the regulations, this process can be daunting for the potential daycare operator. Fortunately with some help from our friends who are daycare owners, iMandarin School made it through the LSRP inspection without any issues (although I have to admit, it took a lot longer than we expected). I would just like to use this post to share a few of our learnings from going through the process.
At where we are at, in northeast NJ, the cost of the initial inspection (the Preliminary Inspection, PA) is roughly $2500. We solicited quotes from multiple environmental firms, and pretty much everyone was around that price range. But buyers beware, after the PA is where the cost can vary greatly between firms. For example, one firm might charge $200 for a playground soil test where another firm might charge $600 per soil test. That is for one soil sample, typically you would need multiple samples per play area, which at $400 difference could add up to thousands! Also, make sure to get in writing whether there are any additional reporting fees, for example some companies will bill extra for report preparation, historical information research, reviewing blueprints etc… Some additional costs for these type of activities should be expected, but it is best to get your LSRP to give you some rough estimate of additional fees so that you don’t get sticker shock when you get the final bill. Another thing to look out for is the cost to review existing DEP records for the site. This for us involved the LSRP traveling to Trenton and reviewing old documents in the DEP archives. Again try to get an estimate of the cost and just as importantly the time required to complete the review before signing the contract.
You can also do your own research online to see if there are any previous records of DEP certifications or violations. The NJ DEP Open Public Records Act (OPRA) site is here: http://www.nj.gov/dep/opra/online.html. The site is hard to navigate, but with some persistence you should be able to pull up records base on your location. Another site that I find useful is http://www.historicaerials.com. You can review historical aerial photographs online (just as a LSRP would do), and see if the location was ever used for industry or agriculture, both of which have specific testing requirements in order to meet child care regulations.
A word about the Indoor Environment Health Assessment, IEHA. As a good daycare owner, we try to be as conservative as possible when dealing with issues of health and safety. So it is easy to get concerned about the need to conduct an IEHA. However, most new daycares will not need to have an IEHA done. The LSRP will not tell you this directly, I guess for fear of potential liability, they will only state that you have to check with the state which only adds to your anxiety. The cost of an IEHA, which the LSRP can also complete, is very high ($4000 for reporting only, add a lot more for the required tests) so keep this in mind when you are looking at an existing building for your child care center. We double and triple checked with the DEP as well as the DCF (Depart of Children’s Affairs office of licensing) and confirmed that you only need to complete an IEHA if the building had prior industrial use, or the building is co-located with a nail salon or dry cleaner, or if the building was built prior to 1978. Your town’s construction department will have records of past use for your building.
There is one indoor test that is required no matter what, and that is the test for Radon gas. In our experience, you can get the same test done by using a $50 kit from Amazon or Homedepot instead of hiring an environmental consultant to do it -which typically costs a lot more.
Finally, a good LSRP will work closely with you and be willing to answer your questions! Personally, I am offended anytime someone justifies anything with “Look, it is for the safety of the kids.” None of us would be starting a child care center if we didn’t genuinely cared about the children.
I hope some people find this article useful. Good luck!