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Your Turn: Cleanup must begin at Elmira High School site


Since hosting the April 12 meeting at the Elmira Holiday Inn on the issue of “Unremediated Toxic Hazards at Elmira High School,” I wanted to take an opportunity to thank the concerned citizens who attended that evening, and most importantly, a thank-you to Walter Hang, of Toxics Targeting, for providing a deeply thought-provoking and informative presentation.

Walter took New York State Department of Environmental Conservation technical information and delivered it in plain English.

The takeaway from the evening is that the intermittent remedial measures, known as IRM’s, led by Unisys Corp. and overseen by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, simply cannot be considered as the proper course of action any longer. By maintaining a process of fragmented remediation, the community would have to wait another 40 years before the entire school property is comprehensively cleaned up.

The school opened in 1979, an investigation took place from 1999 to 2003 after questions were raised regarding students becoming ill with cancer, and according to a conversation with a representative from the DEC I had recently, I was told by this person that the property is still being investigated and delineated. The toxic pollution at the site exceeds applicable public health and environmental protection standards.

As a someone who was involved with the earlier inquiry that took place from 1999 to 2003 regarding what was then known as Southside High School, I believe as a community we need to call for action, and not just wait for another study nor more investigation. Cleanup must begin now! This is where all of our students from across the entire Elmira City School District will spend their high school days.

And, I also believe that the entire surrounding area, spanning from Miller’s Pond to the neighborhood across from the school property and down to Cedar Street, has never even been comprehensively assessed for toxic impacts from the prior 100 years of industrial operations in this area of the Southside of Elmira. This entire area needs comprehensive cleanup as well.

So here a few items to consider:

The DEC will be holding a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. May 2 at the Elmira Holiday Inn, regarding another Intermittent Remedial Measure at Elmira High School this summer. I encourage the public to attend. More information can be found at

I invite you to visit to see a video of the presentation given by Walter Hang on April 12.

And most importantly, to become involved as well as stay informed of future developments, meetings and actions on this issue, please email me at

We as a community cannot let another two, five or 10 years pass before thorough and comprehensive remediation takes place, for the good of the public health.

I am committed to staying involved, and I urge the community to do the same.

Andy Patros is an Elmira resident.