EPA Wants PCB Light Ballasts Out of New York City Schools in Five Years

Federal regulators are pushing New York City to speed up its plan to remove <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/pcbs_nyc_schools">PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) from hundreds of public school buildings. While New York City announced a 10-year-plan to remove PCB-tainted light ballasts from 772 school buildings earlier this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants it done in five.

According to a report in The New York Times, the EPA will push for the five-year timetable in a written statement that will be delivered today at an oversight hearing on the city’s PCB remediation plan before council committees.

As we’ve reported previously, New York City’s PCB removal plan stipulates that schools know have leaking light ballasts and the oldest elementary schools be addressed first. Then, remaining schools will be addressed in this sequence:

• elementary schools built between 1950 and 1966
• secondary schools built between 1950 and 1966
• elementary schools built between 1967 and 1979
• secondary schools built between 1967 and 1979
• elementary schools constructed before 1950
• secondary schools constructed before 1950.

Last month in an interview with The New York Times, EPA regional administrator Judith Enck said the 10-year timetable was too long and “not robust enough.” She said the city should conduct a comprehensive search for leaking ballasts, and remove those right away. At the time, however, Enck did not say what sort of timetable the EPA would prefer. Today’s hearing will be the first time the agency has specified what timeframe it is seeking in its negotiations with the city, the Times said.

Also pushing for a shorter timeframe is the New York City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, who according to the Times, also supports a 5-year plan.

“We should err on the side of caution when addressing health matters pertaining to children in our schools,” Quinn said in statement. She is urging the Bloomberg Administration to work with the EPA to revise its plans.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), human health studies indicate that PCB exposure can disrupt reproductive function, and in utero exposure can lead to neurobehavioral and developmental deficits in newborns and continue through school-aged children. Other systemic effects, including liver disease and diabetes, and effects on the thyroid and immune systems are associated with elevated serum levels of PCBs. Increased cancer risks, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, are also associated with PCB exposures, the CDC says.

As we’ve reported previously, the EPA believes many light ballasts installed in schools across the country prior to 1979 are contaminated with PCBs. In January, the agency embarked on a pilot testing program to determine the extent of PCBs in New York City schools. The chemicals turned up in light ballasts in every building the EPA tested.

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