We haven’t heard much lately about the continuing battle to have PCB-tainted light fixtures removed from city schools, but on Wednesday, NYC parents filed a federal lawsuit in response to the city’s refusal to replace PCB laden light fixtures within a shorter time frame. Despite calls by City Council, the DEP, and the EPA to replace the light fixtures in 5 years, the city has decided to do it over a 10 year period, much to the shock of many parents.
The lawsuit was filed in United States District Court in Brooklyn by the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) on behalf of the New York Communities for Change (NYCC). The defendants in the lawsuit are the Department of Education and the New York City School Construction Authority (SCA).
“The city’s 10-year time frame is unacceptable,” said Miranda Massie, the legal director of the NYLPI, in a report by the New York Times. “We’ve been pushing for a two-year time line, which we are confident is plausible based on advice from technical and contracting experts.”
The Department of Education, however, argues that the fixtures don’t pose an immediate health risk, and that replacing them within ten years would ensure that classes aren’t disrupted. The EPA, however, has found some very high levels of PCB in Brooklyn schools, plus some asbestos in many of the fixtures. But the DOE isn’t budging.
“While some people think we should spend more and do this faster, we continue to believe this is an aggressive, environmentally responsible plan that will cause minimum disruption to student learning and generate significant energy savings for the city and taxpayers in the long run,” said Natalie Ravitz, a spokeswoman for the department.
Despite the DOE’s rationalization, some of the light fixtures in the schools are more than 10 - 15 years old, the normal life expectancy of the ballasts — a few are even as old as 30 years. For the sake of children in New York’s schools, the DOE and Mayor Bloomberg really needs to reconsider the plan.