Crowley, Serrano, Nadler Announce Introduction of Legislation to Help Schools Clean Up PCBs

December 20, 2010
Press Release

Washington, D.C. —Today, Representatives Joseph Crowley (D-Queens, The Bronx), José E. Serrano (D-The Bronx) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) announced the introduction of legislation to help school districts clean up polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in contaminated schools. The Safe Schools, Healthy Kids Act will establish a federal funding stream to assist school districts, like New York City, that are already working to clean up and rid schools of PCBs.
“Our children should be absorbing knowledge in the classroom, not dangerous chemicals,” said Rep. Crowley. “That is why my friends José Serrano, Jerry Nadler, and I have focused on raising awareness of this critical issue. The cost of cleaning up PCBs can not get in the way of making sure our children are protected from this dangerous chemical. With this legislation, we can arm affected schools in New York and across the country with the resources they need to help keep our children safe.” 
“The schools in which our children spend their days must be free of dangerous chemicals and substances,” said Rep. Serrano. “We cannot let funding be an impediment when it comes to removing PCBs from any place where children play or learn. Our bill will take care of this problem once and for all, and should be one of the top bi-partisan measures of the next Congress. I look forward to working with Joe Crowley and Jerry Nadler to get this vital bill passed.”
“The issue of PCB contamination in our schools is an urgent health matter that deserves a serious federal response,” said Rep. Nadler. “With recent information that has surfaced on the extent of the problem – particularly in, but not limited to, New York City’s public schools – it is very clear that we must take action now to avert a crisis. The Safe Schools, Healthy Kids Act will be a critical step in this process. Along with Congressmen Crowley and Serrano, I believe that it is essential that the EPA and the federal government now take a leadership role. Lack of funding or bureaucratic delay must never be justifications for failing to protect our schoolchildren.”
The Safe Schools, Healthy Kids Act would authorize the Secretary of Education to create a competitive grant program for states and school districts to clean up PCBs. The Act would also call on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide guidance to ensure safe school conditions and effective abatement or removal procedures. In addition, the legislation would require appropriate notification of the school community when PCB-related work is undertaken. 
Industrial chemicals that are no longer in use, such as PCBs, have been found to have harmful health effects, especially among children. In recent years, a number of schools in New York City were found to have PCB-laden window caulk. Following this discovery, the EPA and NYC Department of Education came to an agreement requiring New York City to proceed with a pilot study testing PCB contamination in five area-schools and produce a plan for remediation that can be applied citywide. New York education officials recently stated they need to further study the issue and develop a plan before clean up in affected schools can safely move forward.
Reps. Crowley, Serrano and Nadler have led efforts to help schools in New York City and throughout the country fund the cleanup of PCBs, particularly through efforts to allow school modernization and renovation funds to be used for cleaning up PCBs. Last year, Crowley and Serrano secured language in the FY2010 Interior appropriations bill that instructed the EPA to study and issue recommendations for cleaning up PCB contamination in schools and this past August, called on the EPA for an update on these instructions to address the danger of PCBs in schools. In October 2010, the three Members led a New York City congressional delegation letter to the EPA asking the agency to increase oversight of New York City testing and remediation of schools for PCBs.