Protesters to City: Our Kids Should Be Learning About ABCs, Not PCBs
A group of approximately 50 parents of students at PS 146 gathered at a planned rally in front of the school Monday morning to protest the Department of Education’s 10-year timeline for removing ballasts contaminated with PCBs, and demanding immediate replacement of the school’s hundreds of light fixtures.
“ABCs not PCBs!” read multiple protest signs held up by children, while chants of “Wake up, Walcott!” were repeated over and over in between a series of statements by elected officials, parents and PTA members.
“We are calling on the city to do its job and replace the lights that we know to be contaminated and believe to be leaking,” said Ilan Kayatsky, a parent of a kindergartner at the school and one of the organizers of the rally. “Kids and teachers breathe in and are exposed to these chemicals every day and we have no way of knowing what the long-term effects are.”
Last fall, families at PS 146 and MS 448 learned that their shared building could be contaminated with PCBs found in lighting ballasts and caulking installed between 1950 and 1978.
But the schools are far back on the Department of Education (DOE)’s list of hundreds of citywide schools in line for the cleanup. In fact, in Brooklyn alone 428 schools have been identified as having PCBs in the classroom.
As parents have not been able to test the ballasts themselves, they have had to rely on visual checks by custodians and concerned community members. To that end, protesters brought side-by-side comparison shots of brown-stained PCB leakage examples and photographs of lighting within the PS 146 building that appeared eerily similar.
“If there is a risk, we need to figure out how to mitigate that risk as quickly as possible,” said Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Cobble Hill) to Carroll Gardens Patch. ”If there isn’t a risk at all, then we want to be able to run tests that will give people the sort of comfort they deserve.”
District leader Jo Anne Simon, whose own children attended PS 29, another contamination site, was also present to voice her support.
“You have money in lots of places, how about cleaning up the area so kids can learn?” she told Carroll Gardens Patch, citing that several neighborhood schools have undergone construction since the findings were released last year, yet no leakage tests were conducted during those periods.
“There must be 8 or 10 schools in the area that have a similar PCB problem,” Simon noted. “If there’s a possibility to protect our children while they’re doing construction, why don’t we kill two birds with one stone?”
To date, the DOE has been unresponsive to pleas from elected officials on altering their timeline. Thus for sites that have not been expedited, there is no way of knowing when the schools will have their lighting removed.
“With the DOE’s proposed timeline my daughter could potentially be exposed to PCBs for 13 years,” stated one concerned parent, adding “The DOE have responsibility to remove PCB-laden ballasts now. Since the city has been refusing to test or remove the fixtures, we have no choice but to formally ask the EPA to intervene because history has shown that leaving these types of issues unchecked can be deadly.”
Gigi Gazon from New York Lawyers for the Public Interest also posited that putting off remediation not only risks chemical leaks but wasted taxpayer dollars as well.
“These fixtures are at the end of their life,” she said. “They’re about to leak if they’re not leaking now. They are outdated, obsolete, energy inefficient and costing the school money. So absent a threat, you still want to remove them. It’s the low-hanging fruit.”
Concerned parents can visit PCBlightsout.org for information on how to conduct visual checks for PCB leaks in your own schools.