Wednesday, February 16, 2011

NYC Schools In The News Again for PCBs.

An intact ballast from a typical pre-1979 fluorescent light fixture.
Yesterday's Wall Street Journal reported that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found three more schools in New York City with leaking polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) lighting ballasts.  The agency took 14 samples from light fixtures at an East Harlem School complex consisting of P.S. 206, P.S. 37 and P.S. 112 and found that 12 were above the regulatory limit. The three schools are located at 508 E. 120th St, Manhattan.  This is the fifth school site testing positive for PCBs, other sites included Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Bronx.  According to Metro, New York City Department of Education spokeswoman Marge Feinberg said they’ve replaced all the toxic lights found by the EPA thus far, but the estimated cost for checking and/or replacing all the lights in public schools throughout the five boroughs is $1 billion, which NYC does not have.  EPA has been studying this problem for years and has produced a website covering the "Proper Maintenance, Removal, and Disposal of PCB-Containing Fluorescent Light Ballasts".  The purpose of this website is to provide information to school administrators and maintenance personnel on the risks posed by PCBs in light ballasts, how to properly handle and dispose of these items, and how to properly retrofit the lighting fixtures in your school to remove the potential PCB hazards.  The website covers the following areas:
  • Why Should I Be Concerned about PCBs in My School?
  • What Are the Health Effects of PCBs?
  • Do My Fluorescent Light Ballasts Contain PCBs?
  • Should the Light Ballasts in My School Be Removed?
  • What Should I Do if My Fluorescent Light Ballasts Contain PCBs?
  • Is It Really Necessary to Retrofit the PCB-Containing Fluorescent Light Ballasts in My School?
  • What Are the Risks and Potential Costs of Not Replacing the PCB-Containing Fluorescent Light Ballasts in My School?
  • Are Students and Teachers in Danger if There are Leaking PCB-Containing Light Ballasts in Their School?
  • What Are the Special Procedures for Cleanup and Decontamination after a Ballast Leak or Fire?
  • How Do I Retrofit the PCB-Containing Fluorescent Light Ballasts in My School?
  • What Type of Waste Will Be Associated with a Retrofit and How Do I Handle It?
  • What Are the Cost Savings Associated with a Retrofit?
  • What if a Retrofit Is Not Feasible in My Current Budget?
As EPA continues its investigation of NYC schools,  we are sure we will continue to see headlines like these well into the future. 
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