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Elmira High School health concerns: "A heavy area of pollution"


ELMIRA, N.Y. (18 News) - Most people from Elmira know that the Elmira High School lays on top of what used to be a manufacturing company. However, questions linger about what that could mean for the health of students.

Walter Hang, President of Toxic Targeting, a company that gathers environmental data, said the school has huge areas of contamination.

"Soil pollution, ground water pollution, this is very heavy areas of pollution," Hang said.

At the Holiday Inn Elmira-Riverview on Thursday evening, Hang presented extensive Elmira High School site contamination data, historic maps and other detailed information documenting widespread toxic pollution hazards, that have never been investigated or cleaned up on a comprehensive basis.

In recent years, there have been projects to remove contaminated areas.

"It helps, but you can see from the DEC's own maps that there are other huge area's that have not been cleaned up," Hang said. "Why are you waiting?"

Christopher Krantz, Elmira High School Principal, told 18 News that there were was nothing for parents to worry about. Krantz said during the 14 years he has worked at the school, he has yet to see a health-related case linked to this.

"It's just a shocking statement," Hang said. "He has no idea whether or not children have gotten sick because there has not been a comprehensive health study."

The main problem is in fact, that there has not been any health study conducted. However one former student said PCB could be the answer to all his health issues.

"The second half of my senior year, I got sick and ended up staying home from school," Peter Keenan, a former graduate, said.

Keenan played football for Elmira in '94, which was the first year the grass field was used for home games, and an area linked to high levels of PCB.

"I had just signed a letter of intent to go play football down at King's College in Pennsylvania," Keenan said. "I went from 240 lbs to 180 lbs in the span of 3 months."

Doctors could not figure out what it was.

"I was tested for Leukemia, Lupus, Lou Gehrig's disease," Keenan said.

At the time, doctors treated it as Arthritis, but after so many years later, Keenan thinks it all comes back to what was underneath that football field.

"In the past day since this has been publicized on social media, I've been contacted by a half a dozen people under the age of 50, who all have hip problems," Keenan said. "They all have had hip replacements, or are in need of it."

Hang said it has become a political issue.

"We need the DEC to require that these sites be cleaned up without further delay, no excuse," Hang said. "If Governor Cuomo can't make that policy change, he needs to be held accountable."