Updated 02/23/2011 04:55 PM
Mayor Approves $700M Plan To Remove PCBs From Schools
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The mayor has approved a $708 million plan to replace potentially harmful fluorescent light fixtures in all city public schools.
A Department of Education official told NY1 that the aging lighting fixtures at 772 public school buildings will be replaced, due to concerns about leaking polychlorinated biphenyls.
The fixtures were installed between 1950 and 1978, before use of PCBs was banned.
The mayor said he will accept bids for the project later this year, and that the effort, which will be paid with city capital funds, will make the schools more energy-efficient.
He says it will take about 10 years to complete the work.
The plan comes after a months-long standoff over the lights with the Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA says PCBs cause cancer and its presence in schools could lead to long-term health threats to children and staff.
Elected officials echoed those concerns at a press conference at City Hall Wednesday. They said the EPA has tested 15 city schools since August, and that at least three Manhattan schools, one Bronx school, one Staten Island school and three other Brooklyn schools beside P.S. 45 tested positive for PCBs.
"These test results show alarming levels of PCBs in every school that has been tested, above the levels that the EPA considers safe for children," said Manhattan-Brooklyn Congressman Jerrold Nadler.
"Investing in the health, safety and future of our children, by replacing these dangerous lighting fixtures, is by no means a frivolous or unnecessary expense," said Manhattan Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal.
While the schools will remain open as the fixtures are changed, city officials claim students' health will not be endangered.
"Parents should be informed, but there's no reason to not send their children to school at this time. The EPA is on it, they are taking a look at these schools," said Brooklyn Councilman Erik Dilan.
The latest inspection for PCBs turned up the highest levels yet of the toxins in P.S. 45 in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
The school had 19 aging fluorescent light fixtures that showed abnormally high levels of the chemical.
The Department of Education says it is since replaced the fixtures tested at the school.