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Toxic cleanup shifts from dirt near RDU to region’s streams, lakes Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/07/19/4016489/toxic-cleanup-shifts-from-dirt.html#storylink=cpy

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An 8-acre mound of oven-baked dirt – so sterile that no worms or weeds can live in it – is all that remains after an $82 million Superfund cleanup at the site of Ward Transformer Co., the Triangle’s nastiest industrial polluter.

But Ward’s half-century legacy of toxic PCB contamination will linger in the Raleigh area for years to come in creeks and lakes from Raleigh-Durham International Airport west of the city to the Neuse River on the east side.

In the next few weeks, environmental scientists will start the most extensive round yet of tests to determine how much more cleanup work will be needed to remove cancer-causing PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in 6 miles of stream beds and lake bottoms downstream from the former Ward plant near RDU. And they will check to see whether there are still dangerous PCB levels in the flesh of fish that swim as far as 32 miles downstream in Crabtree Creek and part of the Neuse.

Bilingual public health outreach workers also will begin walking the banks of Lake Crabtree and Crabtree Creek to interview anglers who may be catching PCB-poisoned fish to feed their families.

Children, nursing mothers and pregnant women face the worst risks of cancers, infections, skin problems and learning disabilities that have been blamed on PCBs. But there are concerns that some Wake County residents do not see, do not understand or simply ignore the few posted signs that warn against eating these fish.

“You’re talking subsistence fishermen, and a lot of these are minority or Hispanic people,” said Matthew Starr of the nonprofit Neuse River Foundation, which is working with the UNC Superfund Research Program to survey and educate residents fishing in these waters. “This is food for the table, for the family.”

Scientists do not worry about people who swim where PCBs have been found in the muddy stream bottoms. The only PCB public warnings issued in North Carolina are aimed at people who eat contaminated fish.

Persistence – both in the environment and in our body tissues – is what makes PCBs a public health threat. The chemicals become concentrated in fat tissues as they climb the food chain: minnows eaten by fish, fish eaten by birds and people, mothers nursing their children.

“They just stay in your tissues and build up,” said Kathleen Gray of the UNC Superfund Research Program.

Instead of dissolving in streams and groundwater, PCB molecules usually attach themselves to soil particles and then lie undisturbed for years in streambeds – without breaking down – until a storm comes along and washes them farther downstream.

“PCBs do not degrade very easily,” said Nile Testerman, an environmental engineer with the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources. “They’re always there. Once they’re in an environment, they’re hard to get out.”

Thousands of gallons spilled

Before Congress banned them in 1979, PCBs were used in insulating oils to keep electric power transformers from overheating. Ward Transformer began operation in 1964 at its plant near RDU, eventually employing 50 workers to repair and recycle transformers for customers including the electric utility now known as Duke Energy Progress.

Scientists concluded later that, over 15 years, Ward spilled thousands of gallons of waste oil containing PCBs and other toxins into the soil and downstream waters. When they bored into a streambed near the Ward site in 1997, a black oily liquid oozed from the sand.

Ward Transformer also found a way to dump some of this waste oil far away from the plant. In 1978, two men in a tanker truck sprayed an estimated 30,000 gallons of PCB-laced oil along rural roadsides in 14 counties.

Buck Ward, the company president and one of four men convicted in the dumping, served nine months in federal prison in 1982. He died in 1996.

The Environmental Protection Agency got serious about cleaning the Ward Transformer site in 2003, when it was added to the Superfund national priority list of hazardous waste sites.

Environmental scientists expected they would handle about 100,000 cubic yards of poisoned soil, but in the end, they dug out four times that much. Workers kept digging as long as they found contamination. They had to stop when they reached bedrock, 29 feet below ground.

Some of the soil was hauled away to special landfills, but most of it had to be detoxified at the Ward site in a two-stage thermal process, which heated the soil and converted the PCBs to harmless gases. For three years, passers-by saw water vapor emitted from the thermal operation and mistook it for toxic smoke, or perhaps a plane crash at the nearby airport.

The clean, sterile soil was returned to the ground, shaped into a gently sloping, 8.7-acre mound, and topped with a one-foot layer of honest, organic topsoil that had to be trucked in. The topsoil is planted in grass and shrubs.

In June, the EPA and other officials made a walk-through inspection and agreed that the PCBs have been cleaned from the soil at the Ward site and adjoining acreage used by Estes Express, a trucking firm.

Next stage: Streams and lakes

Years have passed since new toxins washed into the streams from Ward Transformer. Now the EPA is ready to address the PCBs that have been found over the past decade in the creeks and lakes.

“The EPA typically cleans up a sediment site in a logical manner from upstream to downstream,” said Hilary Thornton, an Atlanta-based EPA engineer overseeing the Ward Superfund project.

More excavation is planned in this second phase of the cleanup. According to plans the EPA outlined in 2008, workers will dig out the worst sediment contamination in streams between the Ward site and Lake Crabtree. Where they dig and how much they haul away will be determined by results of the new streambed testing, expected to start by mid-August.

In earlier testing, scientists also found PCBs on the bottoms of Brier Creek Reservoir at RDU and Lake Crabtree. But current plans call for leaving this sediment in place. Digging it out could cost tens of millions of dollars, the EPA said in 2008, and the sediment disturbance could flush more of the toxins into the water downstream.

“Time has passed, and other sediments have come in and been laid down on top of the last particles of PCBs from the Ward site,” Thornton said. “It may be, in EPA’s judgment, better for the stream and the environment for some of these sediments to remain undisturbed and contained, so that humans and (natural organisms) are protected from these sediments.”

That could be a short-sighted decision, said Drew Cade, the Lake Crabtree County Park manager. The lake is not as deep today as it was in the 1980s, when it was built to reduce flooding along Crabtree Creek. It could lose its usefulness in future years unless the county digs out the lake bottom, to make it deeper again.

“We’re a flood-control lake, so we might have to be dredged anyway at some point,” Cade said. “So this might be akin to sweeping the problem under the rug.”

A big black truck

North Carolinians first learned about Ward Transformer and the hazards of PCB pollution in the summer of 1978. An unusual environmental crime wave sparked a public health panic in 14 counties and eventually gave birth to the environmental justice movement.

Federal regulators had halted the manufacture of PCBs earlier in the 1970s. The only legal disposal was by incineration at 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit at one of the two U.S. sites licensed for that purpose, in Missouri and New Jersey.

Ward Transformer found a cheaper alternative. It involved a big, black tanker truck driving up and down rural North Carolina highways at night, spraying PCB-tainted oil along the roadsides.

The dark, noxious oil left waves of sick people in its wake, with complaints of skin rashes and eye, nose and throat irritations.

State officials recognized in August 1978 that they would have to spend millions of dollars to dig up the PCB-contaminated dirt and dispose of it. But it took years of anguish and political tumult to get it done.

The state picked a rural Warren County tract to build a special landfill for the PCB dirt. The choice prompted alarm across the county. Public hearings ran for days, with black and white residents across the county stopping work to tune into the nonstop broadcasts on a small, black-owned public radio station.

The Rev. Ben Chavis, then serving as the national NAACP president, argued that state leaders had picked Warren for the toxic dump site for cynical reasons: a political calculation that its poor, rural and largely African-American community would not offer serious resistance.

Hundreds of residents were arrested in sustained protests, and there were several years of legal challenges. But the state succeeded in building the landfill and filling it with 13,000 truckloads of PCB dirt in 1982.

Despite promises that it would be safe, the Warren County landfill leaked.

Starting in 2001, the state spent an estimated $24 million to render the PCB dirt harmless, using a thermal process similar to the method that would be used later at the Ward site in Raleigh.

Catch and release

Lake Crabtree was popular for years with local residents, including large numbers of Latino families, who brought their fishing rods and five-gallon buckets to catch fish for their supper tables.

State public health officials warned the public in 2004 to stop eating carp and catfish from the lake, and to eat other fish only once a month. The county commissioners thought that was too confusing, so in 2005 they passed a “catch and release” ordinance with a simpler message: You can catch fish here, but you can’t keep it.

“Now when I see someone with a bucket of fish, I have the authority to dump it back in the lake,” Cade said.

Swimming has never been allowed at Lake Crabtree, but boaters there get wet all the time – along with park employees who stand in the shallows to help them. PCBs have been measured in the lake bottom, but not in the water itself. Officials say that the lake water and its muddy bottom pose no health risks.

“I still get questions from parents who bring their kids out here to attend the YMCA camps,” Cade said. “What’s going to happen to Billy when he falls out of the canoe? I say, ‘Well, nothing.’ ”

When the fish warnings were issued a decade ago, health officials enlisted the help of Spanish-speaking church leaders to get the message to anglers. Cade says he has seen more people fishing around the lake in the past few years, and he suspects that more people are eating the fish they catch.

Starr sees anglers with buckets of fish, too, when he paddles the Neuse and Crabtree Creek. He says Cade and county officials have done a good job at Lake Crabtree, but there are only a few faded signs on Crabtree Creek as it meanders through Umstead State Park and across North Raleigh.

“If they’re feeding it to their children or their pregnant wives, then there’s a real problem,” Starr said. “A child who has been eating the fish for 10 years, that’s where you’re going to start to see the health impacts.”

No PCBs have been measured in water or stream sediment in Crabtree Creek downstream from Lake Crabtree, but earlier tests found the toxin in fish swimming in the creek and part of the Neuse. The UNC outreach workers will survey anglers to find out whether they actually are eating the tainted fish.

The World Health Organization has confirmed that PCBs cause cancer. Studies have found other serious health problems for people exposed to PCB pollution – and for wildlife.

“Up on the Hudson River, they found it was altering the songs of songbirds, which was consistent with affecting brain development,” said Peter deFur, a Virginia Commonwealth University environmental scientist working as an environmental consultant for the Neuse River Foundation.

Boys with increased concentrations of PCBs had learning disabilities and lower IQs, deFur said. Other health problems include diabetes and asthma.

“And there are problems with immune systems, so people get sick more easily,” deFur said.

Before it went out of business years ago, Ward Transformer paid the state $3.5 million to help clean up the highway shoulders that were sprayed with PCBs in 1978. To cover most of the Superfund cleanup costs at the site near RDU, the federal government was able to tap the deeper pockets of some of Ward’s former corporate customers.

“You could argue that the Ward (companies) are the most responsible party,” Thornton said. “But because of the financial situation they find themselves in, they’ve been able to get off lightly. Others have the misfortune to have more fortune. They can be required to pay for all of it if the other parties cannot.”

Duke Energy Progress, PCS Phosphate and CONSOL Energy are partners in a trust set up to pay most of the $82 million cost for the cleanup work so far.

Other former customers of Ward Transformer will pay an expected $6 million for the downstream work getting underway with testing this summer and streambed excavation next year, Thornton said.

“It will be with us for some time longer, for sure,” Thornton said. “PCBs are a long-lived contaminant.”

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/07/19/4016489/toxic-cleanup-shifts-from-dirt.html#storylink=cpy

Credit: Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radi

Kalamazoo residents struggle with EPA over “Mount PCB”

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People in Kalamazoo are rallying to get rid of a major dump site that contains cancer causing waste.

Imagine decades’ worth of wood pulp and grey clay waste from the paper mill industry. There are 1.5 million cubic yards of it and it’s laced with polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs.

Now, plop it in the middle of a neighborhood.

Sarah Hill lives a little more than a mile away from what neighbors have dubbed “Mount PCB.”

“What you see right now is a sheet pile wall that’s holding back a constructed mountain of PCB-contaminated materials and keeping it from dropping with gravity down into the Portage Creek. And the EPA said at the time, this is temporary, we will come back with a permanent removal approach,” Hill said.

Mount PCB is more formally known as the Allied Landfill. One of Hill’s concerns is the site was never built as a landfill; there’s no liner underneath it.

“One of the jokes that we tell amongst ourselves is let’s try and get a license for it and see what the EPA would do. They wouldn’t accept land-filling any kind of material there because it sits on top of an aquifer, it sits next to a creek; all the kinds of things that would violate its own rules,” Hill said.

The real human health risk from PCBs comes from eating fish from the Kalamazoo River. Over time, the toxic chemicals build up in fatty tissue in fish. For decades, there have been guidelines about how many and what type of fish to eat to avoid overexposure in the Kalamazoo River. PCBs can cause cancer, and other health effects.

This site is just a portion of the contamination that stretches along 80 miles of the Kalamazoo River, all the way to Lake Michigan. The Environmental Protection Agency has been cleaning up this so-called Superfund site for more than a decade.

Legacy pollution

Paper mills began to dominate the river valley in the late 1800s. But in the 1950s, some mills started recycling carbonless copy paper – commonly used for invoices or credit card receipts. In the 1960s, that paper contained PCBs.

Dick DeVisser grew up in Kalamazoo near one of the mills and still lives nearby.

“Of course the rotting paper fiber was not the most pleasant stuff to smell. It didn’t seem to be hazardous at least we didn’t think so. And it smelled like jobs so we tolerated it,” DeVisser said.

By 1971, production of copy paper with PCBs ended once people realized how toxic the stuff was. But it kept getting recycled at paper mills along the Kalamazoo River years later.

Companies weren’t allowed to just dump the waste after the Clean Water Act passed. DeVisser remembers the companies created big lagoons full of waste instead.

“With the sun and so on, exposure to the air, the top would crust over; much like ice on a pond in the winter time. And us kids were erratically foolish in those days and we would walk out on that crust. And I remember one of my friends falling in and we had to fish him out from under that layer of pulp. It’s a wonder he lived to tell it,” DeVisser recalls.

The debate about what to do with “Mount PCB”

City officials are worried the pile of PCBs will leach into the aquifer that supplies the drinking water for more than 120,000 people.

“So, you’re going to leave PCB contaminated material. You’re going to put a monitoring well there. What happens if you find PCBs?” Kalamazoo Public Services Director Brian Merchant wonders.

“All of the sudden you’re in reactionary mode. Then you’re in a cleanup mode and you’re not in a situation where you prevented anything,” Merchant said.

DeVisser and city leaders want the EPA to remove all the toxic material and send it to a landfill that can handle it.

“It’s about the money, the bottom line today is it’s about the money,” DeVisser said.

Total removal is the most expensive option, and the paper company that owned this site went bankrupt.

So now there’s only about $50 million in a trust fund to clean up this site. The EPA estimates it’ll cost $366 million; more than seven times that amount to remove the contamination. The agency told the city in March it’s likely to consolidate and cap the Allied landfill. That’s what they did on sites upstream.

“Well, upstream is an unincorporated area. Hardly anybody lives there,” said Gary Wager, executive director of the Kalamazoo River Cleanup Coalition.

“There’s plenty of deer but they don’t vote, and they don’t carry signs and raise hell. So they were able to get away with that,” Wager said.

The coalition is planning a big march on Wednesday to show the EPA they’re not backing down.

The city wants the EPA to consider an offer from a landfill in Wayne County, one of only a handfull of landfills in the country that can handle major waste like PCBs. The company says it can remove the toxic material for $120 million, a third of the cost the EPA has quoted.

“Can they remove it for $120 million? I don’t know,” Merchant said, “I don’t think it’s going to cost $366 million though. We’ve got some major differences we’ve got to talk about.”

The EPA stresses it has not made a final decision about the Allied site.

It expects to issue a feasibility study in the next month or two. After that it’ll have public hearings and issue a final decision. An EPA official said the agency would like to begin work on the site in the fall.

Last week, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Sen. Carl Levin, and Rep. Fred Upton sent a letter to the EPA to ask the agency to strongly consider permanent removal of the PCB-contaminated waste.

Story By: Lindsey Smith

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NY City Move Quickly Remove PCB lights in School-While CT Just Found PCBs in Schools

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NYCity to replace possibly toxic PCB lights at IS 204 within two months. PCBs are suspected carcinogens and neurotoxins, which is why long-term exposure to PCBs is cause for considerable concern, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official said. The city has agreed to accelerate the timeline to replace potentially toxic lights at a Long Island City middle school after a PCB leak was found in the building earlier this month.

The city Department of Education plans to finish changing all of the light fixtures at Intermediate School 204 within two months, agency officials said Tuesday. Education officials had previously said the lights would be replaced at some point in the next nine years.

“It’s tragic that we have to wait until PCBs leak before we act,” said City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who rallied Tuesday with concerned parents outside IS 204. Parent Nancy Nizza, 49, of Astoria, said she considered home schooling her sixth-grade son when she learned of the leak. Read more.

In CT PCBs Were Found at Both Southington Middle Schools Buildings

The school committee is facing contaminated building material as well as the probability of contaminated soil from an oil spill at DePaolo in July 1980, when an underground storage tank cracked and leaked more than 5,000 gallons of heating oil into the ground. According to Record-Journal archives, only 68 gallons were recovered because the oil mixed with clay, making it difficult to extract. Read more.

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Stop The Madness – You’re Hurting Our Children

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The future of our country will be the hands of our children.  But what does that mean?  We can raise our children with values and ethics and teach the basic lessons of life, encourage learning and education.  Yet our children and our future children are at risk of not being able to lead our country. Our children risk not being able to succeed in business, in society because of the environmental chemicals that they are exposed to every single day.  Chemicals are leaching from the floors that they crawl on as infants, beds that they sleep on nightly or the toys they play with and put into their mouths, all release dangerous chemicals.  What will their future be like?  How can our country grow and prosper or compete in the global economy?

Recently the Center for Disease our federal health agency reported that 1 out of every 88 American children is affected by autism. That is a 78% increase in autism since 2002 and 23% increase since 2006. As if that is not bad enough, the agency also reports that 14% of American children are affected by Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Of course not all of these problems are the result of chemicals in a child’s environment but a good percentage are.  Looking at the chemicals that are in every day products, ones that are linked to these particular diseases, it is clear society can prevent the harming of children.  PCBs, for example are fond in our environment, in lighting and windows of schools built before 1980.  Lead is found in toys imported from other countries; paint in older building, homes, play grounds and around various industrial sites.  Brominated flame retardants are in mattresses, pillows, clothing and all types of furniture. Also there are Endocrine disruptors like phthalates found in PVC products that are all around us in flooring, toys, pipes, shower curtains and binds.

Not a single one of these chemicals in products are necessary for life or for comfort.  Every one of them can be taken out of children’s environment today.  We know how, and we know where to find and remove these threats.  We are just lacking the political will.

Our politicians need to stop the madness and find the conviction and courage to stand up to Corporate America and say no more . . .”Our children will no longer be sacrificed.”

If I as a parent deliberately, knowing harmed my child I would go to jail, yet in America corporations are above the law and spend huge amount of money to keep their unsafe product from being eliminated in our marketplace and environment.

Just look at the statistics above or the rising cancer incidence in children across the country.  This is an election year where we have a chance to ask the hard questions and vote out of office those that intend to harm our children to protect corporate interests.  Everyone needs to get involved, today, so that we together can reverse the trend and protect our futures. For more information

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Autism and Environmental Chemicals

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CHEJ has been talking about the dangers of PCB’s in school lighting fixtures and how the chemical can affect children’s health. Last month, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that autism spectrum disorder now affects 1 of every 88 American children — a 23% increase from 2006 and a 78% increase from 2002. CDC also reported that ADHD now affects 14% of American children.

As these disorders continue to affect more children across the U.S., researchers are asking what is causing these dramatic increases. Some of the explanation is greater awareness and more accurate diagnosis. But clearly, there is more to the story than simply genetics, as the increases are far too rapid to be of purely genetic origin.

The National Academy of Sciences reports that 3% of all neurobehavioral disorders in children are caused by toxic exposures in the environment and that another 25% are caused by interactions between environmental factors and genetics. But the precise environmental causes are not yet known.

To guide a research strategy to discover potentially preventable environmental causes, a list of ten chemicals found in consumer products that are suspected to contribute to autism and learning disabilities.

This list was published today in Environmental Health Perspectives in an editorial written by Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, director of the CEHC, Dr. Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), and Dr. Luca Lambertini, also of the CEHC.

The top ten chemicals are:
1. Lead
2. Methylmercury
3. PCBs
4. Organophosphate pesticides
5. Organochlorine pesticides
6. Endocrine disruptors
7. Automotive exhaust
8. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
9. Brominated flame retardants
10. Perfluorinated compounds

The editorial was published alongside four other papers — each suggesting a link between toxic chemicals and autism.

There are things we can do as parents as concerned taxpayer and citizens. First, is to remove chemicals in areas that children frequent. As you may know CHEJ’s Children Environmental Health Program has been working on identifying and the removal PCBs in school lighting fixtures as well as removing other environmental chemicals from children environment such as emissions near schools.

As a humane society we cannot allow this devastating neurological problem to continue to rise in our children. It is time to speak up and out about environmental chemicals and children’s health. It is time to ask our health authorities to explore where children may be being exposed and eliminate that source of exposure. This is especially true in the case of PCBs and school lighting(schools built before 1980 and had no retrofitting) since this is a win win situation. The school district can remove exposure and save money on the energy efficiency of new lighting fixture.

Our children are our future. Let’s protect them . . . our future depends on their leadership.

No PCBS

CHEJ Group Training Call: PCBs in Schools: An Invisible Threat to the School Environment

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Did you know that schools that were built prior to 1979 may have old lighting fixtures that contain a toxic chemical called polychlorinated biphenyls or PCB’s? In New York City public schools, testing uncovered high levels of PCBs coming from old lighting fixtures and now the city is replacing the lights.  The PCB levels found in air are a health risk for school children and school personnel. Learn how you can find out if your child’s school fluorescent lights contain PCBs by joining our briefing call.

Join our panel of speakers on Tuesday, February 21st at Noon to 1:00 PM (EST) for a Training Call on “PCBs in Schools: An Invisible Threat to the School Environment”.

· Makia Burns, CHEJ’s Childproofing Our Communities Campaign Coordinator, will outline the problem of this banned chemical, PCBs, in the school environment.

· Dr. David Carpenter, Director, Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany, will discuss the health effects of PCBs and children’s special vulnerabilities to chemical exposure.

· Anne Rabe, CHEJ’s Be Safe Campaign Coordinator, will discuss how you can take action on this problem and possible funding for schools to replace toxic lights.

After the presentations, a 30 minute question and answer session will be held.

About the speakers:

Makia Burns, CHEJ’s Child Proofing Our Communities (CPOC) Campaign Coordinator joined CHEJ in 2010. The CPOC campaign educates communities on children’s special health vulnerabilities and brings together community leaders to collaborate on efforts to prevent harm from toxic exposures in their communities.  Makia works with groups from across the country faced with toxic hazards and assists them with developing viable solutions. With over 10 years of labor organizing experience, her specialty is campaign coordination and strategy. She is credited with organizing thousands of new union members.

Dr. David Carpenter, Director, Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany is a national expert on PCBs. He directed a large, interdisciplinary study on the PCB contamination from the General Motors Foundry Site in Massena, NY, which is adjacent to the Mohawk Akwesasne Nation, a Native American community that traditionally eat fish from waters heavily contaminated with PCBs.  Dr. Carpenter has conducted health studies of other PCB-exposed populations, including an Alaskan Native population living on St. Lawrence Island, residents of Anniston, Alabama who live near to the Monsanto PCB manufacturing plant, and residents living along the PCB-contaminated portions of New York’s Hudson River and Massachusetts’s Housatonic River. He has published numerous articles on human exposure to PCBs and experimental studies with animals exposed to PCBs.

Anne Rabe, CHEJ’s Be Safe Campaign Coordinator, has over 30 years of organizing experience on environmental issues.  For 18 years, she was Director of Citizens’ Environmental Coalition, a statewide grassroots organization in New York State helping communities harmed by toxic pollution and organizing campaigns on State Superfund, air pollution, and other issues. She co-founded the NYS Labor & Environment Network, a coalition of labor and environmental groups working on corporate accountability, and Don’t Waste New York, a statewide organization that successfully stopped a proposed nuclear waste dump.  From 1980 to today, she has organized a community/labor campaign on the NL Industries uranium waste dump in Colonie, NY. She has a BA in Political Science/Journalism from the State University at Albany, and has received eleven regional and national awards for her environmental work.

RSVP today by emailing @chej.org


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CNN Spotlights Indoor Air Quality Impact on Student Learning

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An estimated 14 million American children attend public schools that are in urgent need of  extensive repair or replacement and have unhealthy environmental conditions, including poor air quality, unsafe drinking water and inadequate safety systems. This weekend, CNN will spotlight the dire condition of schools and the health hazards posed by poor indoor air quality. [Read More]

CNN’s report on indoor air quality in schools airs on Saturday, January 14 at 8 p.m., 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. ET.  The program will re-air again at the same times on Sunday, January 15.

Visit CHEJ’s Focus on Schools webpage to get more information about threats to the school environment and how you can take action.

Contact Makia Burns, CHEJ’s Childproofing Our Communities Campaign Coordinator at (703) 237-2249 x21 or mburns(at)chej.org for additional information or organizing assistance.

Parents in New York City sue over PCB cleanup timetable

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A pilot study started to address PCB contaminated caulking in New York city schools bloomed into a much larger problem. The study discovered there was also PCBs leaking from lighting fixtures that pose a threat to human health. A debate ensued about the severity of the threat to human health especially children who has a special vulnerability to chemicals. Children bodies are in a constant state of change and can consume more toxins into their bodies more than adults. Read more >

PCB’s Raining Down on NYC Students

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Members of Congress from New York City joined with community and environmental groups this week to press EPA to take a more urgent approach to testing for and removing polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, from schools.  

“We are concerned that these results indicate that the problem of PCBs in New York City schools is more severe than previously contemplated,” 13 House representatives wrote in a letter to EPA . “Resolving this problem will require extensive testing and remediation across the city in a manner approved by the EPA and using facilities and services approved by the EPA.”

New York City’s agreement with EPA was to set up a pilot program aimed at testing five schools for PCBs in window caulk, but the city also ended up replacing lights that were exposing students and teachers to the chemical.  Given the extent of potential PCB contamination from caulk and electrical equipment, “there certainly has to be a source of funding found for this at the federal level,” New York Lawyers for the Public Interest Litigation Director Miranda Massie, whose nonprofit firm has gone to court to push for broader testing, said in an interview.

“This is a problem with midcentury, brick-and-mortar construction — it’s not limited to schools, and there is no reason to think it’s limited to New York City,” Massie added. “In ultimate terms, this is going to be like lead or asbestos. It’s a massive, nationwide remediation project.”