The Department of Education waited three weeks to fix a light bulb that was leaking toxic chemicals at PS 87 on 77th street, and didn’t tell parents for almost three months, according to Assembly member Linda Rosenthal. PCB’s are a carcinogenic chemical that was used in lighting fixtures until the 1970’s. Eight Upper West Side schools have been found to contain the fixtures. The city has said it will spend the next decade getting rid of the chemicals, but local officials have tried to speed up the timetable. Rosenthal has sponsored a bill making the city dispose of the chemicals in two years.
Of the recent leak, Rosenthal wrote:
“Though a malodorous and smoking lighting ballast was discovered on December 7, 2012 while children were in a classroom on the third floor, the ballast was not removed until December 28, nearly three weeks later. Adding insult to injury, the DOE then broke the law when it did not notify the principal or parents of the dangerous toxic leak. Parents learned of the incident this week, nearly three months later, by accident.”
The city is supposed to notify parents within seven days. The DOE didn’t get back to us with a comment. In a letter sent home with parents the department apologized, according to DNAinfo.
“‘We apologize for not notifying you sooner,’ Deputy Schools Chancellor Kathleen Grimm wrote.
Grimm explained in her letter that the leak caused a ‘burning odor,’ and forced administrators to evacuate the room.
The room was ventilated for three days and students returned on Dec. 10, she said, adding that students were allowed to return to the room because “no visible leaks were observed so the fixture remained in place.”
The PTA presidents are also calling for faster action:
“We are deeply, deeply concerned for the health and safety of our children, teachers and staff. We insist that our classrooms are remediated this summer and that the DOE allow immediate air quality testing so that we can make sure our school is safe. We call on the DOE and the City of New York to do better by our children. They deserve a safe place to learn, and we, as parents, deserve answers,” said P.S. 87 Parents Association co-presidents Claire Abenante, Ann Binstock and Katie Miller.
A PS 87 parent we contacted wrote: “I am sure parents are angry that they weren’t told until now since I think the law says parents have to be notified within 7 days. Also not sure where the mess up is – at the school level, district level, network level, DOE level. No one is exactly stepping up to take responsibility. But, it was one light, in one classroom – not like the PS 199 situation where they just can’t get rid of it and don’t know why.”