Parents at a North Bronx elementary school have just been treated to an unpleasant late-summer surprise. At an "emotional" meeting with the parents of Bronx New School students yesterday, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced that the school's air and soil were contaminated by the potentially carcinogenic chemical trichloroethylene (TCE), and that the Department of Education had known of the contamination since February.
According to the the Daily News, the Department of Education not only waited for months to drop the bombshell, but had never tested the building and its soil before, despite the fact that it had been a factory building for 70 years. The building's last inhabitant before the old Board of Education leased the building in 1992, Nessen Lamps Inc., generated hundreds of gallons of "spent halogenated solvents used in degreasing" (like TCE) in 1986 and 1987. And the DOE has been spending $28 per square foot in rent for this literal dump each year, on top of paying for the renovations necessary to turn the space into a school.
The school's 300 students will be sent this fall to St. Martin of Tours, a former Catholic School more than 2 miles away. Walcott said the health risks presented by the exposure to the site, where soil contamination was more than 10,000 times the limit determined by state regulations, were "minimal," and that a pediatrician was on-site to test children. However, parents of course came forward with reports of their children's complaints of headaches, dizziness and nausea. One parent, Leona Johnson, told NBC her daughter, now 24 years old, graduated from the school back in 1997 and continues to suffer health problems. The parent of a 7-year-old is being told to have the girl's heart checked out.
Reports NY1, "Parents said they did not think the chancellor admitting the city made a mistake and apologizing was enough." The rage of a horde of parents has probably never been more succinctly understated.