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City To Replace Light Fixtures Containing PCBs In Schools By 2016

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TWC News: City To Replace Light Fixtures Containing PCBs In Schools By 2016
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The city has agreed on a plan that officials say will accelerate the removal of lights containing PCBs from 645 city schools.

The New York City Department of Education says that the new plan calls for the replacement of all of the light fixtures by the end of 2016.

The original plan called for light fixtures containing PCBs to be removed from 645 schools by 2021, but the city said earlier this month that they planned to finish the job "well before" then.

The DOE says the new plan was the result of mediation between the city and the group New York Communities for Change, who filed a lawsuit against the city in regards to PCB removal in 2011.

The DOE says the plan is effectively a resolution to the group's lawsuit.

The new timeline was hammered out by attorneys from the city and from New York Lawyers for the Public Interest with help from a judge.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said that light fixtures in 200 schools and other buildings will be replaced by the end of summer.

"We always said from the beginning that we would assess our timeline based on the experience that we had once we started this," Walcott said. "We assessed it, we made adjustments, and we felt we came up with a realistic timeline to do an expedited review of removing."

A judge previously rejected a city request to dismiss a lawsuit calling for the city to expedite the removal of light fixtures containing PCBs from schools.

Light fixtures at several schools around the city have leaked, popped or caught fire over the years, leading parents, elected officials and community leaders to demand that all PCBs should be removed sooner than the DOE originally planned.

PCBs were banned in the 1970s after it was found that exposure affects the nervous and immune systems.

Advocates called it a victory for children.

"I was really happy that DOE has come around to a more equitable timeline," said mother Celia Green. "I think parents feel more empowered now."

"The community has won a great victory because the timeline that the city had initially offered was not good enough," said Christina Giorgio of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.

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