7 On Your Side: NJ storage customers will be allowed in their Ida-flooded units

SCOTCH PLAINS, New Jersey (WABC) -- There was some welcome news Friday for nearly 200 customers of a New Jersey storage facility after 7 On Your Side took up their cause to save treasured heirlooms that were submerged by Ida and then threatened to be thrown away.

But after Nina Pined and others applied pressure, Public Storage in Scotch Plains stopped purging their possessions.

"I'm crying tears of joy," customer Cecilia Ephraim said. "I have hope now because my things are still there untouched."

That includes the last letter her dad wrote before dying, and now she and others who've been blocked from entering their spaces are assured the trashing of their contents will stop.

"I hope I can salvage some things if I ever get in there but I'm just glad it's there and not in a dumpster," Public Storage customer Jennifer Sermon said.

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"I feel a huge relief that my items are in the unit, but time is of the essence -- there's mold growing," customer Robert Giglio said.

"They're acknowledging that something needs to happen," customer Mary Jean Murphy said.

Murphy had her attorney file a restraining order, and the public storage company agreed to not enter her unit.

"Before today, communication wasn't so great with Public Storage," attorney Jacob Davidson said. "To their credit, that has changed a bit. I'm encouraged they need to come to the table better for everyone."

The customers very public outage prompted New Jersey Assemblyman Jon Bramnick to contact Public Storage himself. He then notified the attorney general, who he says started an investigation.

"When I get back to Trenton, I'm going to have to look at some serious legislation," Bramnick said. "We've got to hold some hearings. But clearly, these storage facilities are not going to be able to dispose of people's goods."

It's a giant relief for renters like New York Giants legend Carl Banks, who contacted 7 On Your Side Thursday, outraged.

"We have a lot of memories in that unit, and that's not just part of my sports legacy but family legacy," Banks said.

Now, he and others can start accessing their units next week.

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"Thank you for coming out to help us I think your presence and just supporting us, giving us hope to keep asking and putting pressure on them," Ephraim said.

Public Storage said it initially decided to purge possessions because they were exposed to sewage and were now hazardous and a public safety issue.

But now, renters have been told they'll start getting appointments to get into their units. They'll be given to the people with the most damage first.

Public Storage released the following statement Friday:

"Keeping our customers safe from the damage caused by one of the most devastating storms in New Jersey history is our top priority. We were forced to close our location in Scotch Plains, NJ, after Hurricane Ida left four feet of contaminated category three water in its wake. Category three is the highest water contamination rating and is commonly referred to as 'black water.' Black water contains many toxins that are harmful to humans, including hepatitis B and C, Norovirus, Tetanus, West Nile Virus, Tuberculosis, and dozens of other deadly bacteria. After consulting with HAZMAT experts, it was clear to us that our customers cannot safely access this highly contaminated area or salvage the contaminated items. We have paused disposals to address concerns raised by a few customers and to allow us to evaluate our response to a court's order. We will continue to remain in direct contact with customers to ensure that they are informed of the proper next steps. We will also continue to work with impacted customers to help them get reimbursed by their insurance."

The Division of Consumer Affairs has received complaints about the Public Storage facility in Scotch Plains, and those complaints are open and under review. Consumers who have complaints against this business should file them with the Division by visiting its website or call 1-800-242-5846 to receive a complaint form by mail.

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