LONG ISLAND CITY, New York, October 3, 2007 (ENS) – Parents of the 503 students at Information Technology High School in Long Island City are outraged that state Department of Education officials did not inform them that the school was built over a plume of hazardous chemicals.

They became aware of the toxics only after Fox 5 News aired a report on the toxic site late last month.

A metal-plating factory once occupied the site where the school now stands and left a mess of hazardous chemicals that can damage the central nervous system and can be fatal if people are exposed to high levels.

Students may have been exposed to high levels of the chemicals because a soil vapor extraction system, located in a shed outside the school, was often shut down due to technical difficulties.

Councilman James Gennaro, who chairs the New York City Council’s Committee on Environmental Protection, today scolded the state Department of Education for its failure to inform the parents, staff and faculty at the Information Technology High School that the school sits on toxic ground and has a malfunctioning air filtration system.

“It is utterly lamentable that the Department of Education, which is entrusted with the responsibility to ensure the safety of New York City’s children, lacks candor, concern and veracity when it comes to matters such as this,” Gennaro said.

The Department of Eduction should properly conduct its first set of tests on the ground and air-quality levels at the site, said Gennaro. The threshold used for the first set of tests was too high to provide an accurate outcome, according to consultants with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.

Gennaro also criticized the New York State School Construction Authority and and the Department of Education, DOE, for withholding the results of the second round of tests from the public, and claiming that the site was located in a “very clean environment.”

“We will no longer tolerate the DOE’s reluctance to release information to the City Council, local community and the press,” the councilman fumed.

“We demand the School Construction Authority release to the public the results of its second round of tests,” Gennaro said. “In order to have full confidence in the protection and safety of the students, staff and faculty at the Information Technology High School, and as a consequence of its null first set of tests, we also demand that the DOE conduct a third set of tests immediately, and subsequently make available its results.”

The DOE and the School Construction Authority spent $20 million converting a metal-plating warehouse in Long Island City into a school building and in 2003 began leasing the building for $1.6 million per year.