Two years after toxic PCBs were found in P.S. 199, the city and federal Environmental Protection Agency agreed to address this chemical.
The city will conduct a study to better target and remove PCBs, a man-made, cancer-causing chemical used in construction and electrical products before 1978. The legally-binding agreement was reached after the city possibly violated the Toxic Substances Control Act by using caulk that contains more PCBs than are allowed.
The city will choose five schools—one from each borough—to study, and Rep. Jerrold Nadler wants P.S. 199, at 270 W. 70th St., between West End and Amsterdam avenues, to be included. In May 2008, Nadler and other Upper West Side elected officials urged the EPA to clean the building when School Construction Authority subcontractors removed PCB-containing caulk without following state regulations.
“[P.S. 199] is where the problem of PCB contamination was first discovered and so it is logical for it to be among the schools used in the city’s PCB study,” said Ilan Kayatsky, spokesperson for Nadler. “Upper West Side families certainly deserve the peace of mind knowing that their kids are not being needlessly exposed to dangerous chemicals in their public school.”
State Sen. Tom Duane echoed that statement, saying that removal of PCB-containing caulk will restore the community’s confidence in the safety of P.S. 199. And Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal has been pushing a bill to get the city to study all schools that used PCB-containing caulk between 1950 and 1978.
“Having the five-school pilot project is a positive first step,” Rosenthal said. “But I think ultimately a lot more will have to be done and all the schools will have to be tested.”
Judith Enck, the EPA’s regional coordinator, said in a statement that the study will help the federal agency understand the risk of PCB in caulk.
“We believe that the program outlined in this agreement, along with general EPA guidance on managing the issue, will serve as a model for school systems across the country,” Enck said in a statement.
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