US Senator Supports Nationwide PCB Remediation

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America Unites

Malibu’s local issue has taken the national stage.

Senator Ed Markey from Massachusetts released a report on Wednesday detailing how polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have affected the entire nation’s school system.

Markey became involved with the issue after meeting with local Malibu activists Cindy Crawford and Jennifer deNicola, as well as other environmental advocates, in June earlier this year.

Malibu residents are familiar with the dangerous effects of PCBs but the toxic chemical has not been the focus of the national discussion so far.

“I feel like [Crawford and deNicola] really put an issue on the map that wasn’t entirely there before,” President and Co-Founder of Environmental Working Group Ken Cook said. “This is what I do for a living and it’s not easy for local interests to do that.”

Markey’s title as a United States Senator has already brought significant pull for pursuing the extent of the PCB issue in America’s schools. 

Previous Freedom of Information Act requests made of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have been ignored when filed by local residents. The agency has been more responsive with an elected official.

“Senator Markey got [from the EPA] in two months what we were asking for in two years,” President of America Unites for Kids deNicola said.

According to Markey’s report, up to 14 million students nationwide may be exposed to PCBs in their schools. The total number of schools with PCB-containing caulk or building materials could range from 12,960 to 25,960.

The cost of remediating these schools has been estimated between $25.9 billion and $51.8 billion, with each school costing $2 million on average.

Markey’s report serves as a first step to the legislative process. The report identifies many issues and suggests potential solutions but recognizes the magnitude of the problem. For example, where will the money for these expensive remediation costs come from?

Future action by the government might not be contained to passing new legislation. Many of Markey’s suggestions include expanding the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act or directing the EPA to be more transparent about toxic chemical discovery and testing.

These alterations wouldn’t necessarily require a new bill to be passed but could be communicated to administrators in existing regulatory agencies. 

Currently, the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act requires schools to document cases of asbestos. This mandate does not exist for PCBs. Markey suggests requiring remediation, testing and parental notification if PCBs are discovered.

“These are the three issues that we had the problem with in Malibu,” deNicola said. “If those three things were done properly with common sense, we wouldn’t have had this problem in Malibu.”

Working administratively may be ideal in the current economic climate. Despite the widespread media attention given to the Flint, Michigan, water crisis, congress spent several months debating before approving aid for victims of lead poisoning.

The PCB issue may see more movement based on what activists saw during their visit to Washington.

“We really did find a lot of bipartisan interest in hearing what the story was in Malibu,” Cook said.