At PS 51 in the North Bronx, students have been learning their ABCs and their TCEs. No, TCE isn't a newfangled standardized test—it's the potentially carcinogenic chemical trichloroethylene! There was already an "emotional meeting" between PS 51's parents and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott last Thursday, where Walcott apologized for the city sitting on the information for months, and pledged to relocate students to St. Martin of Tours, a Catholic school two miles away. But Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. drafted a letter calling for Walcott to "Release copies of all environmental testing, reports and data from both P.S. 51 and the new facility at St. Martin of Tours."
The tenant before the DOE occupied the building in 1992 was Nessen Lamps Inc., and they apparently used hundreds of gallons of chemicals containing TCE over the years. Diaz criticizes the DOE for dragging its feet in their investigation: "the source of the TCE contamination…has yet to be identified. Consequently, we have no way of knowing when the contamination started, nor whether there were conditions that may have caused fluctuations in the level of TCE exposure." Diaz notes that, "Without that information, we cannot properly assess the health risks to students, teachers, administrators and other staff over the last 20 years" that the building has been a public school.
Several parents of the 300 elementary school students have come forward to claim that their children complain of headaches, dizziness and nausea, and one 24-year-old former student alleges that she still suffers from persistent health problems. Somewhere, Cathie Black is smiling.