Classrooms Re-Open After Toxic PCB Scare

By: Lauren Zakalik Email
By: Lauren Zakalik Email

It wasn't in kindergarten teacher Debra Fredericks' lesson plan to find toxic PCB liquid leaking from the lights in her Bingham Elementary classroom.

"When you're responsible for twenty-some children that aren't your own, it's really scary," she recalls.

After weeks of clean-up, the Lansing School District put fears to rest Monday when they re-opened Fredericks' classroom, one other and the school library-- all of which had PCB leaks.

They've replaced the old light ballasts with new PCB-free fixtures, installed new floors and cleaned under EPA standards.

Like many other schools, Bingham was built decades before PCB was a known cancer-causing toxin. Before 1980, most buildings were built with chemicals or substances we now know are harmful; every Lansing school district building except for the new Pattengill Middle School falls under that time-frame.

It was expensive to clean and fix just the three classrooms at Bingham Elementary; it cost the district more than $25,000. And now, they want to fix the rest of the schools.

"We estimate it will cost about $2.5 million to $3 million to retrofit all the buildings with new light fixtures," says LSD Chief Operating Officer Brian Ralph.

Only 10 of the district's 41 buildings currently have safe, updated lights, which has lead the district to introduce new protocol to follow if another PCB leak happens.

"As a result, the Ingham County Health Department and the EPA support and bless our protocol on how to handle these things in the future," says superintendent Dr. T.C. Wallace.

They say the existing PCB in schools is not a health hazard, but they pledge it will all be gone in the next five years.

***The following Lansing schools have had the PCB fixtures removed:

Attwood Elementary
Averill Elementary
Gier Park Elementary
Grand River Elementary
Moores Park Elementary
Pleasant View Elementary
Post Oak Elementary
Wexford Elementary
Willow Elementary
Pattengill Middle

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