New York Parents Sue to Speed PCB Cleanup in Schools
As reported by the New York Times.
In the latest sally in the controversy over PCB-laden light fixtures in New York schools, parents have filed a federal lawsuit arguing that the city is not replacing old fluorescent light fixtures quickly enough.
In the suit, filed in United States District Court in Brooklyn, a group representing the parents asserts that the city’s plan to replace the fixtures over a period ranging up to 10 years puts children at risk and violates the federal Toxic Substances Control Act.
The suit was filed by the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest on behalf of New York Communities for Change, a coalition of low-and moderate-income families. It names the city’s Department of Education and the New York City School Construction Authority, which manages capital projects, as defendants.
The lighting job involves inspecting an estimated 564,000 ballasts in 772 schools and then replacing those that are leaking PCBs, which are toxic chemical compounds. The action seeks “prompt removal” but does not specify a time frame; lawyers representing the parents say the job can be done in two years. Officials from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and members of the New York City Council have called for completion in five years or less.
A pilot study started by the city last year and inspections by the E.P.A. this year indicated that light fixtures leaking PCBs were probably prevalent throughout the school system. Officials with the Department of Education, which has already started replacing the ballasts, have maintained that the contamination doesn’t pose an immediate health risk and that a 10-year time line would ensure that the problem was resolved without disrupting classes.
Natalie Ravitz, a spokeswoman for the department, on Wednesday called the effort to replace the light fixtures in more than 700 school buildings “unprecedented” nationally. “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,” she said.
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