CITY PUSHED ON PCB MITIGATION

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By Dan Rivoli

West Side elected officials want the Department of Education to quickly remove PCBs from P.S. 199 using recommendations from the school Parent-Teacher Association.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Borough President Scott Stringer, State Sen. Thomas Duane, Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal and Council Member Gale Brewer wrote a letter Nov. 3 asking for the expedited implementation of the PTA’s recommendations.

“We strongly believe that these and other recommendations included in the PTA’s letter are sensible, practical and should be implemented and followed immediately,” the elected officials wrote to Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm and School Construction Authority Vice President and General Counsel Ross Holden.

The Oct. 20 letter from the PTA to these officials includes 10 recommendations, mostly calls for new testing. The PTA wants PCB testing for new caulk, brick near the PCB-contaminated caulk, soil around the building and school building materials. Also on the list of recommendations is improved ventilation in the school.

Previous PCB remediation at the school caused a drop in the level of the chemical.

“Everything that the PTA has recommended has led to a decrease in contamination,” Duane said. “There is absolutely no downside and only upside to continuing to follow the PTA’s recommendations.”

The cancer-causing chemical was found in caulk at P.S. 199, 270 W. 70th St. between West End and Amsterdam avenues, in May 2008. Since then, there has been a demand for a quick removal of PCBs. In March, P.S. 199 was one of five schools selected for a city and federal Environmental Protection Agency pilot program to study PCB-removal efforts that would then be used citywide.

The Environmental Protection Agency has previously stated that the PCB levels pose no immediate health risk.

“We are seriously troubled by comments of late that continue to stress that ‘short-term’ exposure to PCB contaminated air is not problematic, when the exposure facing our community has been over a period of years, not months or days,” PTA co-presidents Diane Brush and Michelle Ciulla Lipkin wrote.

Natalie Ravitz, press secretary for the Department of Education, said in a statement the city is gaining valuable information on testing and remediation from the pilot program.

“Experts have said there is no immediate health threat, and we believe it would be irresponsible to move forward with a city-wide plan—which potentially carries a billion dollar price tag—before we have better information and complete this pilot project,” Ravitz said in her statement.

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