State warns city: school site is toxic
By Sarina Trangle
The Bronx New School, PS 51’s old building has been deemed a “significant threat to public health” by state agencies.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation sent out a notification on May 1 announcing that the 18,200-square-foot building at 3200 Jerome Ave. sits on grounds that contain dangerous levels of two carcinogens — Trichloroethylene (TCE) and Tetrachloroethylene (PCE).
The site where the school had been located since 1993 has been accepted into the Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP), a state initiative designed to help property owners redevelop contaminated sites.
BCE approved the application and a plan to investigate the property’s hazards after a 30-day public comment period in March.
The School Construction Authority discovered that TCE had seeped into PS 51 during environmental reviews in February. Even though 3200 Jerome Ave. formerly housed a light manufacturer, the School Construction Authority wasn’t required to test the school until the end of its 20-year lease approached.
Six months after TCE was detected, PS 51 families were notified that the school was being relocated.
Studies conducted from January to April 2011 show TCE, a clear, sweet-smelling liquid primarily used to degrease metal, was found inside the building, beneath the ground and in nearby groundwater. A March 27 test of belowground vapor contained 53,300 micrograms of TCE per cubic meter, more than ten thousand times the state limit of five micrograms per cubic meter.
TCE exposure can cause headaches, dizziness, euphoria, facial numbness, developmental issues, liver cancer and death, according to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).
Gases below the building Nessen Lamps once used also held nearly three times as much PCE than recommended by the state. Health concerns associated with breathing the colorless, dense industrial solvent include drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, neurological problems, liver and kidney diseases and cancer, according to the ATSDR.
KeywordsBronx New School, PS 51, public heath, carcinogens, Brownfield Cleanup Program, DEP, Sarina Trangle