Beth Fertig is WNYC’s Contributing Editor for Education. She previously covered politics, which included City Hall during the Giuliani administration, and the U.S. Senate campaigns of Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton. She also covered transportation and infrastructure.
City Isn't Removing PCBs From Schools Fast Enough: Suit
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
A group representing city parents filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Education on Wednesday for not acting fast enough to remove PCB-contaminated lighting fixtures from public schools.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn by New York Communities for Change, formerly known as Acorn, which represents parents throughout the city.
The suit accuses the city of failing to take proper actions under the 1977 federal Toxic Substances Control Act, which banned production and sales of PCBs.
The city's plan to remove or replace all lighting fixtures with PCBs from the schools could take up to 10 years.
"The lawsuit is geared toward making sure that there's not an extra month or week of exposure for any kid or school employee in New York City," said Miranda Massie, legal director of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, who is representing the parent group.
She added that some experts believe it could be done in as little as two years.
Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, have been linked to cancer and other health problems but they aren't considered an immediate threat. The city's Department of Education says more than 750 school buildings have older lighting fixtures with PCBs, and it's begun replacing them after discovering last year that they can leak from aging fixtures.
"While some people think we should spend more and do this faster, we continue to believe this is an aggressive, environmentally responsible plan that will cause minimum disruption to student learning and generate significant energy savings for the city and taxpayers in the long run," said spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz in a written statement.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency has also urged the city to act faster but had no comment on the lawsuit.