State DEEP Draft Decision Deems Harding’s Remediation Safe for New School

Yesterday brought some terrific news for the students of Harding High School.

The State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) issued a draft stewardship permit to the city, determining that the former GE industrial property, once remediated, would be safe to build the new Harding High School.

While this is in no way a final determination, it does mean that students of the east side and east end communities are a little bit closer to having a new school to replace the decrepit 90-year old building they currently attend.

On the heels of issuing their tentative determination, the Assistant Director of DEEP’s remediation division, Robert Bell, met with the Bridgeport’s Board of Education at Monday night’s Facilities Committee meeting to discuss the process moving forward.

Of course, the DEEP’s decision – which came after months of deliberation – did not quell opposition to the Boston Avenue project from certain city activists and school board members.

School board member Howard Gardner said he was concerned that state regulation was “one-size-fits all” when it came to containments.

Bell responded by explaining that, unlike some pollutants, the types of toxins found at the former GE site were not the type that could potentially migrate.

“There are margins of safety built into these standards,” Bell added.

Despite Bell’s answers, Gardner remained “concerned,” because, you know, as an elected school board member, he knows better than the state’s environmental pollution experts? Is he just talking to hear himself speak? Or, perhaps more likely, has opposition to reason just become a knee-jerk reaction for board members?

Gardner wasn’t the only person on the offensive at last night’s committee meeting.

When board chair Sauda Baraka opened the committee meeting to public comment, again without legal notice, former board member Maria Pereira used the opportunity to demand that the state research how many other schools were “knowingly” built on brownfields.

Clearly a gotcha question, which would have worked if it made any sense. Does she really believes not knowing about pollutants is somehow more preferable, like was the case at Greenwich High School? How is a district being unaware of contaminates any safer for children? (For the record, a school in Stamford was “knowingly” built on a brownfield.)

Bell, who seemed almost dumbfounded by the insane line of questioning, responded by explaining that the state’s concern is whether the current site is up to state environmental standards.

Issuing the draft permit started the public process, which will consist of a 45-day comment period from November 4, a public informational meeting on December 4 and a public hearing on December 11. Both the information meeting and public hearing will take place at 6 P.M. at the current Harding High School.

I’m sure that Baraka, Pereira and the rest of their ilk will scheme to prevent the parents of Bridgeport from hearing honest answers at those meetings, too, wasting everyone’s time with unfounded allegations, conspiracies and general inanity.



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