Serrano, Crowley Respond to Lawsuit on PCBs in Schools

July 20, 2011
Press Release

Washington, D.C. — Congressmen José E. Serrano and Joseph Crowley responded to the lawsuit that New York Lawyers for the Public Interest filed in federal court today in order to force the New York City Department of Education to speed up its replacement of PCB-laden fixtures in schools. PCBs are a toxic chemical, and have been found to be present in both light fixtures and caulk in many of the City’s schools. Serrano and Crowley have been leaders on the issue since the first reports of PCBs in New York City schools in 2007.

“The timeframe that the DOE announced for cleaning up these toxic chemicals was outrageous, and this lawsuit could force swifter action,” said Congressman Serrano. “Surely we can all agree that no student should be exposed to PCBs—known to be dangerously toxic in a variety of ways—for years to come. If ever there was a problem that we know that we should spend money on, this is it. Since the news came that there were PCBs in the schools, I have been working to help find solutions. The bill I introduced with Joe Crowley during the last Congress was a step towards addressing this at the federal level. With Republicans in charge, the outlook is bleak for a nation-wide solution. But in the meantime, states and localities should be taking aggressive action to rid schools of these horrible chemicals. Our children cannot wait for the budget outlooks to be more positive—their health is at stake.”

“There is consensus that there is no room for PCBs in our children’s classrooms.  However, tackling a problem of this magnitude will require city, state and federal support. That is why Congressman Serrano and I introduced legislation to provide federal funding to help local officials shoulder the burden,” said Congressman Crowley. “Rep. Serrano and I will not only continue working to secure passage of this measure, but keep up our work to ensure the City moves forward with an effective cleanup plan. At the end of the day, we are all committed to making sure our children are absorbing knowledge in the classroom, and not dangerous chemicals.”

Serrano and Crowley 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. In 2009, 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. Last year, the 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.