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Recent Report Reveals Contamination at Elmira High School


Elmira, N.Y. (WENY) - A recent report has revealed there are high levels of Polychlorinated Biphenyls, or PCBs, underneath the Elmira High School Football Field.

Walter Hang is the President of Toxics Targeting, an environmental database firm. He says, "There's actually PCB, hazardous waste, underneath the football field in addition to toxic metals and potential cancer causing agents."

This is according to a report commissioned by the state of New York, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. Hang says, "We've actually obtained additional maps and detailed analytical data showing that there are huge areas of the school grounds that are polluted, and this contamination hasn't been cleaned up for more than twenty years."

According to Hang, this contamination is dangerous to come in contact with, and can also be breathed in as dust. Hang held a presentation on April 12th, before he had obtained the new data, outlining the overlying issue regarding the hazardous waste. Since then, he has heard from multiple former students and current employees who feel they may have been affected by the contamination. He says, "I was contacted by many people who said I attended that school, I've suffered terrible health problems. People who work at the school contacted me and basically said I'm very concerned about my health."

Hang says the remediation efforts that have been done have been effective, but they are only a small piece of a much larger puzzle. The contamination was traced back to the former Sperry Remington Factory site, where the Elmira High School now stands. Though Sperry had shut down its Elmira plant in 1972, Unisys is responsible for the cleanup as the company was created out of a merger involving Sperry. Hang says while Unisys will be cleaning up a portion of the area this summer, the state needs to make them do a full cleanup. He says, "You have a responsible party, just say clean up this pollution now this summer. There's no benefit in delay and then if the responsible party says we're not doing it, then the state can say we're gonna do it and we're going to come after you for cost recovery."

Hang has written to Governor Andrew Cuomo, calling on him to rule the school as a Class 1 site, meaning immediate action needs to be taken.

Hillary J. Austin, Superintendent of Schools of the Elmira City School District, issued the following statement: "“While we haven’t worked directly with Walter Hang or Andy Patros, for many years we’ve worked collaboratively with Unisys, the responsible party for soil clean-up, along with the Department of Environmental Conservation and Sterling Environmental regarding the remediation work at Elmira High School. This environmental management team’s focus is driven by the Environmental Management Plan. The combined expertise on the team has provided extensive oversight and cooperation among all parties has been great. There is a lot of planning, monitoring, and coordination that goes along with remediation work and we take our lead from the experts. Our capital projects have been accommodated by all involved parties and remediation work has been done accordingly, including the most recent parking lot replacement in the front of the building and tennis court projects. As we’ve done with all projects, the Department of Environmental Conversation will host a public meeting on May 2 from 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. in the Banquet Room at the Holiday Inn Elmira-Riverview to discuss the capital work planned for this summer at Elmira High School."