EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP -- Employees at the Motor Vehicle Commission agency at the Shore Mall have begun wearing masks to protect themselves in light of the demolition in the area.

The state Department of Health has begun an air-quality investigation at the agency in the back of the mall. Donna Leusner, spokeswoman for the department, said the investigation began after the state Department of Environmental Protection received a complaint from an employee within the MVC office.

She said department officials will be visiting the site later this week to address concerns of employees at office.

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Mike Horan, spokesman for the MVC, said he was not aware of the contaminants but knows the area has construction going on.

The demolition work began in the back section of the mall in January. Almost one-third of the mall is being demolished.

The employees began wearing masks after an odor of diesel fuel filled the office on Thursday and many of the employees reported feeling sick, said Don Hagerty, a shop steward for CWA union 1038 in Woodbury that represents the 34 employees at the Shore Mall location.

The union has asked the state to conduct an air-quality test, and in the meantime the employees have voluntarily started to wear the masks as a precaution. Hagerty said two of the employees have become ill, but he said they do not know if it was related to the construction.

“We are concerned,” he said. “The union is looking to protect the health and safety of the customers and employees here.”

Hagerty also said the union hopes to move the agency to a different part of the mall until the work is done.

“Trying to do the demolition around us — it just doesn’t make sense,” he said.

Galloway resident Harold Hannum spent 10 minutes at the MVC location Tuesday and said he was surprised when he walked in and saw all the employees wearing masks.

“It makes you wonder what’s going on,” he said. “It makes you feel so bad for them. They shouldn’t be in there dealing with those conditions.”

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