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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bronx Borough President Calls for Immediate Action on PCBs

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. sent a letter this week to Dennis Walcott, Bloomberg's deputy mayor for education and community development addressing the results of a recent test conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency on PS 68 in the northeast Bronx that showed high levels of PCB contamination.

In his letter, Borough President Diaz calls for immediate action to remedy the situation at PS 68 and an investigation of possible PCB contamination in all public schools within the next 18 months.

PCB or Polychlorinated Biphenyls is a tasteless, odorless, organic compound whose production was banned by the United States Congress in 1979. Some of the effects to exposure from PCB may include headaches, coughs, skin sores, irregular mentstrual cycles, fatigue and rashes. Some studies have even linked PCB to certain kinds of cancer.

“PCBs are a serious threat to the health of both our children and the teachers, custodians and other staff that go to work every day in our public schools. The City must protect the health of these individuals, children and adults alike, and begin the immediate testing of all school buildings that may be at risk of PCB contamination. We cannot tolerate any further delays, too much is at stake,” Diaz Jr. said in a statement.

Read the letter after the jump.

Dear Deputy Mayor Walcott:

I am writing to express my concerns over the EPA’s recent findings of PCB contamination at P.S. 68 in the Bronx. On January 29, 2011, the EPA conducted an inspection at the school examining the lighting ballasts they suspected may contain PCBs.

The test results are extremely concerning: in ten of the 13 samples taken, the EPA found levels of PCB contamination above the regulatory limit of 50 parts per million. I have listed a few of the most concerning examples below for your review and immediate attention:

- In room 111 inspectors found an oil pool with a PCB level of 920 parts per million, 18 times the regulatory limit.

- In room 307 inspectors found oil film with a PCB level of 320 parts per million, six times the regulatory limit.

- In room 308 inspectors found oil drips with a PCB level of 260 parts per million, five times the regulatory limit.

In addition, the form in which the contamination is taking place (oil pools, film and drips) leads to the possibility the toxins could be transmitted to others via clothing or other materials.

As you are aware, federal law requires the immediate safe removal and disposal of any PCB-contaminated materials at an EPA-approved facility. We are advised by the EPA that they have mandated the New York City School Construction Authority to execute a timely removal of the contaminated lighting fixtures at P.S. 68. Consequently, per this federal directive, I urge the Department of Education to arrange for the immediate clean-up of PCB contamination at P.S. 68, including, but not limited to, the replacement of all lighting fixtures that may contain PCBs. Additionally, the Department of Education must follow the EPA’s mandate to replace all lighting fixtures in schools that may be contaminated with PCBs, regardless of testing.

Moreover, we demand the Department of Education commit to a defined schedule, approved by the EPA, to test all city public schools at risk for PCB contamination and completely remove such PCB-contaminates out of all City public schools within the next 18 months.

I look forward to your immediate attention to this matter and to discussing this with you further.

Ruben Diaz Jr.


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