Toxic Chemicals Like Those Found At Elmira High School Site Should Be Banned

by Andy Patros

There is always great interest in the history of our community and area.  Mark Twain, Elmira College, American Lafrance, to name just a few historical items.

But one piece of history that will always be viewed as a stain on our community, is the toxic history of the Southside/Elmira High School building, an item that had plagued our community for decades. 

The high school at 777. S. Main in Elmira, NY, opened in 1979 on property that operated for many years, 1887-1972, as a variety of industrial manufacturing businesses.

Multiple materials were used in those manufacturing operations, and many ultimately were determined to be toxic chemicals.

One significant toxic chemical that was found in the sub soil beneath the school was TCE, (trichloroethene). An air quality analysis performed in the summer of 2014 at the high school building, showed TCE to be present across many locations of the building.  The footprint map that is part of this report, also pinpoints those locations.It is also important to note, that for a period of over 30 years, from 1979-2009, no mitigation measures were put in place to address the sub soil vapor intrusion that contained TCE.  Therefore people that occupied the building were exposed.

Exposure to TCE can cause birth defects in fetuses, cancer, immune system abnormalities, kidney & liver damage, and nervous system damage to name only a few.

After many decades of debate regarding the exposure risks to TCE, the Biden administration through the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is on the verge of banning TCE and is taking public comments as well.

As EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe stated on October 23rd, 2023 when the proposed action was announced, “The science is loud and clear on TCE. It is a dangerous toxic chemical and proposing to ban it will protect families, workers, and communities.”
In order to help people to provide public comments on how TCE exposure affected their lives and the lives of others, I have created a website, toxichighschoolelmira.weebly.com, that has a link to the EPA’s TCE public comments website.

A few tips for submitting your public comment to the EPA include:

  • Click the blue COMMENT button in the upper left; it will take you to the comment page
  • Type (or paste) a comment of up to 5000 characters and spaces (about 500-750 words)
  • Optional- attach (up to 20) additional documents
  • Enter your email address and click the box if you’d like to receive confirmation of your submission
  • Identify yourself as individual, organization or anonymous
  • Click the button to “submit comment”

Also, on my website, I’ve included the 2014 indoor and sub slab air quality analysis report for Southside/Elmira High school.  It is in a pdf file format so it will open easily, for viewing and downloading.

While the injustices placed upon the many injured from the past have not been remedied, I hope that people still consider submitting their public comments from their experiences, to the record.

Keep the historical record correct!

Andy Patros is a resident of the town of Southport.

“Guest View” is a column written by readers from the Southern Tier. For information on how to submit something for a Guest View column, email us at elmiratelegram@gmail.com

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