West Side School Picked for PCB Removal

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will be part of a study to target and remove PCBs, a cancer-causing substance, throughout public schools in the five boroughs.

Two years ago, the man-made chemical was found in the Upper West Side school, at 270 W. 70th St. between West End and Amsterdam avenues. An investigation revealed that the school was contaminated with the chemical in May 2008, when a contractor hired by the School Construction Authority removed caulk containing PCBs without following state regulations.

P.S. 199 will be a test site for PCB clean-up. Photo by Andrew Schwartz.

Elected officials, including Rep. , asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take over cleanup, with the city footing the cost.

Last January, the EPA and the city came to an agreement to study the removal of PCBs. Nadler urged the city to pick P.S. 199, one of the first schools in the city found to be contaminated with PCBs, to be a part of the five-school pilot program.

“It’s very good news that the EPA and the city chose P.S. 199 as one of the schools for PCB testing,” Nadler said. “I, along with other Upper West Side elected officials, first brought this issue to the EPA’s attention because of the situation at P.S. 199. It is only logical that P.S. 199 be thoroughly tested to ensure that the kids are not being needlessly exposed to dangerous chemicals.”

Data collected from the pilot program will lead to a citywide approach for removing PCBs in schools and reducing the risk of exposure to the chemical.
Congress banned most uses of PCBs in 1976, though there are buildings that were constructed or renovated prior to that time that may contain the chemical in caulk around windows and doorframes, according to the EPA.
The pilot program will test air in five selected schools, but Assembly Member wants the city to test all schools that have caulk from 1950 to 1978, when PCBs were still being used.

“This is an intermediate step, the pilot program,” said Rosenthal, who recently authored a bill that would require such testing. “This needs to be done throughout the city.”

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