New Rochelle School District Retracts False Claims Attributed to Westchester County Department of Health on Risks From Davis Asbestos Incident

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NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- In response to complaints by the Westchester County Department of Health, the City School of District of New Rochelle has retracted some but not all of the false claims the District attributed to the Westchester County Department of Health earlier this week regarding the risk to staff, students and visitors to the George M. Davis Elementary School following an asbestos exposure incident.

The District has now removed two knowingly falsely claims. One, that health officials had determined that the incident at Davis School was not an asbestos exposure incident. Two, no adverse health consequences were expected.

The District has yet to remove a third false claim from their web site that the DOH determined that there was no need for students, staff or visitors to the school to take action or seek medical advice.

The District has yet to notify Davis parents and school staff that a message sent out by Davis Principal Michael Galland included a knowingly false claim that the Westchester Department of Health did not consider this incident to be an exposure to asbestos.

The WCDOH demanded a retraction by the District based on reporting by Talk of the Sound and inquiries by Westchester County Legislator Sheila Marcotte whose district includes the Davis School.

The New York State Department of Labor (DOL) Asbestos Control Bureau is the agency responsible for asbestos exposure incidents in New York State. The DOL works with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency which has federal responsibility for asbestos exposure generally, under the Clean Air Act and the Toxics Substance and Control Act, and specifically in schools, under the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act.

The DOL is currently investigating the Davis School asbestos incident and has yet to make any determination.

The Criminal Investigations unit of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is also investigating. The DEC is responsible for the transport and disposal of toxic materials such as asbestos and coordinates with DOL.

The demand for a retraction came about after Westchester County Legislator Sheila Marcotte asked WCDOH officials to explain their role investigating asbestos exposure and statements attributed to WCDOH by District officials. Marcotte told Talk of the Sound that WCDOH was upset with the District for putting out false information and attributing that information to them.

The retraction is not indicated as such on the district website.

Staff, students, parents and visitors who received an email and robocall on Monday have likewise not been informed that the information contained in those messages is knowingly false.

On Monday August 5th, the District sent out a message to parents which stated:

Dr. Adrienne Weiss-Harrison has consulted with the Westchester Department of Health and they have advised us that they do not consider this incident to be an exposure to asbestos.

The bolded statement is false, according to Marcotte based on her conversation with WCDOH officials.

On the same day, the District published a timeline on the district web site which stated:

The district’s Medical Director, Dr. Adrienne Weiss-Harrison, discussed the results with Environmental Health staff at the Westchester County Department of Health (WCDOH). They informed Dr. Weiss that they do not consider this incident to have resulted in an exposure to asbestos. Therefore, no adverse health consequences are expected.

AsbestosTimelineWCDOH 0805

The bolded statements are false, according to Marcotte based on her conversation with WCDOH officials.

On Thursday August 8th, the District replaced the "timeline" document on their web with a new timeline without providing any indication they had done so indicating any changes to the document, which stated:

The district’s Medical Director, Dr. Adrienne Weiss-Harrison, shared the results with Environmental Health staff at the Westchester County Department of Health (WCDOH).

AsbestosTimelineWCDOH 0808

Still remaining on the District web site is a third knowingly false claim:

As individuals were not exposed to asbestos at Davis School, per the WCDOH, no action is required.

The DOH says they never offered any such conclusion now would they given they have no role in asbestos exposure incidents, according to Marcotte.

What Should Parents and Staff Do? As individuals were not exposed to asbestos at Davis School, per the WCDOH, no action is required.

AsbestosTimelineWCDOH 0805 2

The bolded statements are false, according to Marcotte based on her conversation with WCDOH officials.

Talk of the Sound has requested further information from the WCDOH including information regarding communications between the WCDOH and the City School District of New Rochelle regarding the "stealth retraction", the failure to remove the third knowingly false statement and the failure to send a new message to Davis parents that the message from Michael Galland on August 5th containing a knowingly false statement.

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