Streams

Calls to Shut Down Staten Island School Until PCBs Removed

Sunday, January 09, 2011

After the discovery of toxic PCBs, New York City school officials have closed two classrooms at PS 36 on Staten Island. In a letter to Michael Mulgrew, the head of the teachers union, Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott said the measure was taken as a "precaution," and that the rooms would remain closed "until we are certain there is no health concern."

Walcott noted "the affected materials" had been removed from the classrooms, but the Department has not confirmed whether he was referring to light fixtures, floor tiles, or other things. Additionally, Walcott said that upon consultation with the city's Health Commissioner, there was no reason to close the rest of the school.

But Staten Island councilman Vincent Ignizio disagrees. Given the high toxicity of PCBs, Ignizio thinks the entire building should be closed for the time being.

"I don't believe that the current situation at PS 36 is safe for people to be occupying the building," said Ignizio. "The DOE disagrees, but they're not scientists either."

Ignizio wants an independent monitor, "in this case, the United States EPA, to come in, do some testing, and say this school is safe. Then I would be able to look people in the eye and say I believe it's safe," said Ignizio.

Joining Ignizio in calling for a full school closure was Miranda Massie, an attorney in the environmental justice division of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. According to Massie, preliminary tests on floor tiles, contaminated by a PCB spill from a light fixture, measured PCB levels between 1,000 and 12,000 parts per million. The Environmental Protection Agency considers the safe level to be no more than 50 parts per million.

"There's every reason to think that other lights in that building have leak problems," said Massie. "Even if they haven't spilled to outside the fixtures, it's overwhelmingly likely they've spilled within the light fixtures."

And she said "there is absolutely no doubt" that hundreds of other public schools in the city are at risk of PCB contamination.

The Department of Education did not respond to additional requests for information.

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Comments [2]

Dawn Marie Hayes

The classroom numbers, I *believe*, were 255 and 263. At least one of the rooms has just three walls, with one side exposed to the adjacent corridor. But there is now a concern for the integrity of the entire school. Air and dust tests were conducted Sunday. Results will take a week or so.

As for potential health risks, I would suggest consulting the EPA's website: http://www.epa.gov/wastes/hazard/tsd/pcbs/pubs/effects.htm

Dawn Marie Hayes, Ph.D.
Parent Member, School Leadership Team
PS 36

Jan. 11 2011 09:37 AM
Bobbi Greenfield

I taught for nearly 20 years in that building.

What are the health risks for the staff, which spend more years there than any student?

What are the room numbers that were closed?

It should be easy to contact the teachers and others who worked long-term in the building and observe what health problems, if any, they are facing.

Thank you.

Jan. 10 2011 08:35 AM

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