Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012
Richard Ichioku Byakugan
Student Association Senator
Student Union Building
SUNY New Paltz
New Paltz, NY 12561
This is in response to your request for a brief summary about the toxins situation in Bliss, Capen, Gage and Scudder residence halls. The issue is fully documented at a website called DioxinDorms.com, though I can state the basic facts.
The four dorms plus two other buildings — Parker Theater and Coykendall — were contaminated when a power surge caused a series of transformers to explode. This happened Dec. 29, 1991. The transformers, located in their respective buildings, were filled with a toxic fluid that had been banned as “an imminent threat to human health and the environment” many years earlier; the equipment on campus was ‘grandfathered’ in and allowed to stay but was no less dangerous, as the situation has demonstrated.
Speaking of the dorms per se, all four on that quad were contaminated when the fluid, ashes, smoke and fumes flooded the buildings at different severities. My research indicates that all were re-opened to students prematurely, without adequate testing, and in truth they should be torn down and replaced because repairing them properly would cost more than replacement.
In effect, they are totaled. This is mainly due to the presence of contaminants in vents, hearing units, conduits and pipe chases that has not been properly addressed by state officials and their contractors. However in 2007, state Health Department officials admitted that the issue existed, but they they didn’t think it was worth dealing with.
In fact, the most likely contaminated areas have been ignored in the cleanup or treated only minimally, when the state had every reason to know the truth about the dangers from much prior experience (from a 1981 incident in Binghamton).
I am in touch with many students who got strange diseases young after living in the buildings, ranging from immune system collapse to hormone disease to various cancers (cervical, brain, and others). There are too many sick students for this to be a coincidence, and if anyone thinks that it is a coincidence they should do a proper study and find out.
As mentioned, full documentation, including test results of samples that I personally took, are on the Dioxin Dorms website. There is a blog on that site with the newest information, that is easy to find.
Note that these chemicals don’t “fade away” over time; once contaminated it’s like radiation: it stays toxic.
Please write to me if you have further questions.
Thanks for your interest in this issue.
Very truly yours,
Eric Francis Coppolino
former New Paltz grad student and TA
environmental writer and investigative reporter