Getting the PCBs Out
February 23rd, 2011
As the Wall Street Journal reported this morning, the city has just announced a plan to remove PCBs from some 722 schools where tests have found elevated levels of the toxic substance. The city says the $708 million program will include removing lighting ballasts with PCBs from the school system as well as energy audits and retrofits.
In announcing a plan that will come as a relief to many parents across the city, the Department of Education sun it, not as a response to what may saw as a critical health risk, but as a program to “increase energy efficiency and environmental quality” and reduce greenhouse gasses.” No where does the release mention the rising concern among parents, many public officials the federal government over what they saw as the city’s foot dragging on the PCB issue.
Last week, for example, a group including Reps. Jerrold Nadler and José Serrano, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, State Sen. Thomas Duane, and Borough President Scott Stringer. called on the city to end its delay in devising a plan to deal with the PCB problem and to take “concrete steps” to carry out a remediation plan without delay.
“For three years, the DOE and the [School Construction Authority] have been avoiding the demands made by this office to remediate any problems,” John DeSio, spokesman for Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. told the Daily News. “The agencies are currently fighting a request from the Environmental Protection Agency to replace all lighting ballasts in affected schools in a timely manner.”
The city, which has has said replacing the fixtures would be too expensive.
As the city stonewalled on the issue, the federal agency inspected schools. Yesterday it reported that samples taken at P.S. 45 in Bushwick tested far above the 50 parts per million federal threshold for PCBs, with one samples having 660,000 parts per million.
Those findings, “add a new sense of urgency to solving this problem in a rapid fashion,” Judith Enck, the EPA’s regional administrator in New York, has said.
The plan is now slated to take 10 years and will be accomplished, Schools Chancellor Cathie Black said in a written statement, “without any significant interruption to student learning.”
In her comments, Black reiterated the administration’s contention that even the Environmental Protection Agency has said ” there is no immediate health threat to students in these buildings.”
She neglected to add, though, that the chemical was banned in the late 1970s and has been linked to higher incidence of cancer along with disorders of the immune and reproductive systems. In children it has been tied to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and increased aggression.
Along with removing the lighting parts, the city also will inspect for other sources of PCBBy Gail Robinson on February 23, 2011, 11:38 am
In category: Education, Environment, Gotham City, Health | 1 Comment »