NEWS AND ISSUES
November 3, 2010
Department of Education
52 Chambers Street
New York, New York 10007
Ross Holden, Esq.
Vice President & General Counsel
School Construction Authority
30-30 Thomson Avenue
Long Island City, New York 11101
Dear Deputy Chancellor Grimm and Mr. Holden,
As elected officials representing the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where PS 199 (270 West 70th Street) is located, we share the PS 199 Parent Teacher Association's (PTA) concerns regarding persistent polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination in the school. We urge the New York City Department of Education (DOE) and the School Construction Authority (SCA) to expeditiously implement each of the ten action items enumerated in the PTA's October 20, 2010 letter, which is attached.
The most recent publicly-available results from the pilot study, conducted by the City under the supervision of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), found airborne concentrations of PCBs in PS 199's gymnasium and a number of its classrooms that significantly exceed the EPA's recommended public health levels. While we are aware of the City's position that there are "no immediate health concerns for building occupants," we are concerned that the school's students, teachers, administrators and staff continue to be subjected to prolonged exposure to potentially dangerous levels of PCBs.
As you know, the pilot study has monitored PCB contamination levels at the school during the Cityfs remediation efforts. The raw results from the study to date suggest that remediation techniques recommended by the PTA are sound. For example, the removal of PCB-containing caulk and the replacement of light fixtures were followed by a dramatic reduction in indoor PCB air concentration, while the City's strategy of encapsulating the caulk was actually followed by increased concentration levels. The PTA therefore recommends removing all contaminated caulk and, because PCBs have been found to seep into adjoining materials, testing the new caulk, surrounding bricks and mortar, as well as tiles and other materials that do not have direct contact with caulk. The PTA also recommends—and has recommended since at least March of 2009—increasing ventilation of the school. The study results found that increased ventilation was followed by a nearly 100 ng/m3 reduction in contamination in both the classrooms and the common areas.
While we appreciate your commitment to addressing the very real concerns that we and our constituents have about the safety of our public schools, we strongly believe that these and other recommendations included in the PTA's letter are sensible, practical and should be implemented and followed immediately. We look forward to your continued cooperation as we strive to comprehensively assess and remediate PCB contamination at PS 199 and, indeed, all schools citywide.
If you have any questions or require additional information, please do not hesitate to contact Jared Chausow in the office of State Senator Tom Duane at (212) 633-8052.
Scott M. Stringer
Manhattan Borough President
Thomas K. Duane
New York State Senator
Linda B. Rosenthal
New York State Assembly
Gale A. Brewer
New York City Council