You’d think the Department of Education would’ve learned their lesson after the recent PCB debacle went spiraling out of control as more and more of the City’s negligence was starting to come to light. But at a meeting last week with parents, Chancellor Dennis Walcott admitted that the air and soil in P.S 51 are contaminated by a carcinogenic chemical, trichloroethylene (TCE). But worst of all, the Department of Education has known about the contamination since February.
Walcott, amid a meeting with furious parents, regretted the fact that it took six months for the city to inform school officials at P.S. 51 in the Bronx about tests conducted in January, showing high levels of a cancerous toxin in the air. As if that hadn’t rattled parents enough, the Department never tested the building and its soil before, despite the fact that it was once a factory building for 70 years that generated hundreds of gallons of “spent halogenated solvents used in degreasing” (like TCE).
Luckily for the school’s 300 students, they will now begin their fall semester at St. Martin of Tours, a former Catholic School 2 miles away. Walcott has maintained that the “health risks presented by the exposure to the site, where soil contamination was more than 10,000 times the limit determined by state regulations, were ‘minimal,’ and that a pediatrician was on-site to test children.”
Despite Walcott’s optimism, parents have recently came forward with reports of their children suffering from headaches, dizziness and nausea. One seven year old was even taken to get her heart checked. Gothamist also reports that “one parent, Leona Johnson, told NBC that her daughter, now 24 years old, graduated from the school back in 1997 and continues to suffer health problems.”
It’s rather unfortunate that the city’s negligence is putting kids at risk in public schools. By the looks of it, it wouldn’t be a surprise if another lawsuit was brought against the city, should it not improve the safety standards of its public schools.