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Dept. of Education stares down $1B refit

Light fixtures in city schools are leaking PCBs — a harmful construction chemical — and as more are found during spot checks by the Environmental Protection Agency, the city says it won’t have the money to fix all of them.

Light fixtures in city schools are leaking PCBs — a harmful construction chemical — and as more are found during spot checks by the Environmental Protection Agency, the city says it won’t have the money to fix all of them.

The EPA reported yesterday that a fifth school site, this time in East Harlem, tested positive for PCBs. During school tests since Jan. 8, the EPA has found PCBs in Staten Island, Brooklyn and the Bronx.

Although EPA spokeswoman Mary Mears told Metro there’s no “immediate risk” to students, having lights leaking PCBs is against federal law — and the fixtures will have to be replaced.

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.

Bronx Community Board 12 member Johnnie Goff said parents tell her they learn about the PCBs from the news and friends — not always the school. Feinberg said principals normally notify parents, but there’s no official protocol.

With more toxic lights being found in every school the EPA decides to visit, some wonder: Won’t the DOE eventually have to replace them throughout the entire school system?

“We are evaluating reasonable and appropriate ways to address this issue,” said Feinberg, who declined to say when a decision on replacements might be made.

 
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