Legislation requires the DOE to notify parents of students and employees in City public schools of PCB contamination results; new annual report on PCB removal and remediation.
Council will also vote to require landlords to replace expired carbon monoxide detectors.
New York, NY- Today, the City Council will vote on two bills that call on the Department of Education (DOE) to provide vital and comprehensive information on PCBs in New York City public schools. Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are chemicals that were widely used in construction and electrical materials prior to 1978. PCBs may be present in overhead fluorescent light ballasts installed before this year and can be toxic to children through long-term exposure.
The Council will also vote to improve tenant safety by requiring landlords to replace expired carbon monoxide detectors with new models that emit an audible beep when they no longer function properly. Installed under a 2004 law, the devices are now coming to the end of their useful life, potentially putting tenants in danger.
PCB NOTIFICATION AND REPORTING
The Council will vote on legislation requiring action on the part of DOE to ensure that public school parents and employees know whether or not PCBs have been found in their schools.
The first bill (Intro 563-A) calls on the DOE to notify parents of students and employees in any New York City public school (including charter schools) of PCB testing or inspection results. Notification must be made within seven days of receiving the results, whether positive or negative. Additionally, parents and employees must also be told what steps the City has taken, or will take, towards complete PCB clean-up, along with a timeframe for this remediation. If clean-up is not completed within the original timeframe given, the legislation requires the agency to inform parents and employees of a new plan.
Finally, if a school is identified as part of DOE’s PCB lighting removal plan, parents of children who attend the school and its employees would need to be alerted every year of why they are part of the plan and of the timeframe for PCB clean-up. This notice would be on an annual basis, beginning in April 2012, and in November every year following.
A second bill (Intro 566-A) being considered today requires the DOE to submit an annual report to the Council on its progress to rid light fixtures of PCBs and to address issues related to PCBs in window caulk. The report would provide an updated list of all City public schools (including charter schools) identified as part of the plan, along with a timeframe for clean-up. In addition, a list of schools in which PCB levels have been addressed, an explanation of the way the situation was handled (e.g., whether light fixtures and floor tiles were removed) and how long the process took, would be included. Finally, the report would require information on the agency’s efforts to address PCBs in caulk, including test results of pilot studies the DOE is conducting pursuant to a consent order with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
This law would sunset upon completion of the PCB lighting removal plan. To ensure transparency, both of these bills call on the DOE to post test results and reports on its website.
“We in the Council have great concern for the health and well-being of children and employees who learn and work in New York City public school buildings,” said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “Parents deserve to know what type of environment their children are learning in, and school employees should be able to walk into their buildings with knowledge, not fear. Having continuously monitored this issue, the Council will now vote to establish regular notification and reporting of the status of PCBs in schools. Currently, the DOE’s policy on this issue is unclear, inconsistent or nonexistent. These bills will change that.”
“We’ve come a long way since PCB oil was discovered on the floor at PS36, and I am pleased that legislation protecting kids citywide is the ultimate result of that scare. The danger of PCBs is real, but the fear of it does not need to be compounded by lack of information or the failure of the DOE to notify parents and teachers. These two bills will go a long way in the fight to keep our kids safe,” said Council Member Vincent Ignizio, lead sponsor of the notification bill.
“The City has a responsibility to be transparent on matters of personal safety and this bill represents the fight to protect our most important citizens,” said Council Member Stephen Levin, lead sponsor of the reporting bill. “Teachers and schoolchildren are second to none when it comes to the future of New York. There are more than 240 infected schools in Brooklyn and over 750 citywide. That adds up to tens of thousands of young people exposed to PCBs who may have serious medical complications down the road including learning deficits, endocrine disruption and cancer. I am proud to work with NY Communities for Change, the United Federation of Teachers, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest and the SEIU 32BJ on this bill. I also want to extend my gratitude to Speaker Quinn, Education Committee Chair Jackson, and a special thanks to Council Member Ignizio for co-sponsoring this important legislation.”
“Expert after expert has testified as to the grave risk PCB exposure has on pregnant women and women of child bearing age,” said Council Member David Greenfield. “That’s why I drafted legislation that would specifically notify teachers and other staff members, who have dedicated their careers to educating our children, when they may be exposed to PCBs. I applaud Speaker Quinn, Council Member Ignizio and all of my colleagues for addressing this issue, and I thank them for merging my bill into theirs. This bill is a great step towards ensuring a safe environment for all city school children, teachers and staff.”
“PCBs in schools pose a serious threat to the health of our children. Parents, educators, and the rest of the public have a right to know what measures are being taken to protect students from harm, as well as when they’re happening. I congratulate my colleagues, Council Members Ignizio and Levin, on their advocacy on this issue. As a City Council, we have to continue to provide oversight to ensure that our children’s health and safety is a number one priority in schools. As Chair of the Education Committee, I join Speaker Quinn in making sure that this occurs,” said Council Member Robert Jackson.
CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTOR BILL
The Council will also vote to improve tenant safety by requiring landlords to replace expired carbon monoxide detectors with new models that emit an audible beep when they no longer function properly. Carbon monoxide detectors last for roughly six or seven years before they no longer effectively detect carbon monoxide. Under a law passed in 2004, landlords were required to install CO detectors for their tenants. However, the detectors that were installed after that law went into effect are now coming to the end of their useful life but tenants and landlords might not be aware that they are no longer functioning. As a result, many city tenants may soon be at risk.
When this new bill becomes law, landlords will be required to replace CO detectors when they reach the end of their useful life with models that incorporate this new safety feature. As with the original mandate, tenants will be required to pay $25 towards the cost of replacement.
“Too many New Yorkers’ lives are in danger because their CO detectors have died and they don’t know it,” said Council Member Mark Weprin, lead sponsor of the bill. “This law will keep New Yorkers safe by requiring carbon monoxide detectors to include audible reminders that they are due for replacement.”
“Properly working carbon monoxide detectors save lives. However, there are many people who do not realize that the useful life of their current carbon monoxide detectors may have ended,” said Council Member Erik Martin Dilan, Chair of the Housing and Buildings Committee. “The bill before us today would require property owners to replace carbon monoxide detectors that have exceeded the manufacturer’s suggested useful life with up-to-date devices that are equipped with an audible warning chirp. An audible notification will help prevent more people from falling victim to this silent killer.”