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Former Southside Parent Calls for Action From Governor Cuomo, DEC


Elmira, N.Y. (WENY) - Former County Legislator Andy Patros has responded to the Department of Environmental Conservation's claims on Friday, in an interview with WENY News, that Toxics Targeting's President Walter Hang is fear-mongering.

Hang has released several public documents regarding the contamination at the former Elmira Southside High School, which Hang says had not been easily accessible to the public prior. Patros says, "He knows where to find the information, and he brings it forth with 40 years of prime technical experience and you can't discount that."

Patros' son graduated from Southside High School in June of 1997, and was diagnosed with testicular cancer in October of that same year. In 2000, Patros along with others raised concerns about the contamination to the Elmira City School District. The district looked into the matter, and an advisory committee was formed. Patros says the most recent report released by Toxics Targeting, a 1988 site assessment report that pointed out specific areas where toxic dumping had taken place, had not been given to the committee. He says, "It would have perked up our ears a little bit more to say jeez, there really was a lot of activity and a lot of manufacturing that took place on this facility."

Patros is forming a local coalition group that will meet on May 21st to discuss the issue as a community, and answer any questions the public may have. He is also calling on the DEC to come up with a strategy. He says, "Come up with a plan, give us a timetable, tell us what you're going to do. Right now they don't even have a plan."

Patros and Toxics Targeting are calling on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to classify the grounds as a class one sight, which means immediate action must be taken. To view their petition, click here.

The DEC issued a statement saying quote, “To be clear, Elmira High School students, faculty, staff and visitors are at no risk of exposure to contamination at the school property, and New York State remains committed to overseeing a thorough cleanup of the Elmira High School property. Over the past 30 years, DEC and our partners at the New York State Department of Health have conducted several thorough investigations related to the historic industrial use of the site to determine the nature and extent of contamination. All data collected has been integrated to inform our ongoing investigations, and guide comprehensive cleanup actions at this site. DEC has maintained close oversight of all remedial activity at the site and has implemented all necessary measures meet New York State’s stringent standards that protect public health and the environment. More specifically, all historic soil and groundwater contamination detected on the site is below ground surface and any potential exposure pathways have been appropriately addressed.”

The Chemung County Legislature will discuss the possibility of expediting the cleanup of the former Southside High School at their meeting on Monday night.