Tensions were high at a public meeting between residents and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Wednesday night, at the Holiday Inn Elmira-Riverview.

More than 150 residents went to hear the DEC’s next steps in removing Elmira High School’s soil contamination.

“I graduated there, my wife graduated there, my daughter graduated there,” one resident said. “I have another daughter who attends there now, and two new kids coming up. You want my opinion? Close the school, move it, and put it somewhere healthy.”

The DEC handed out a map that showed their progress so far. In 2017, the DEC said 640 cu yd. of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were removed from the tennis courts and the South of Athletic Stands and West of A-Wing.

“Time did not allow for the remediation of deep PCB impacted sub-surface soils near the north east corner of EHS,” the DEC stated. “Future activities will return and complete the remediation of this area.”

A Short term Response Action (STRA) was undertaken in 2017 to remove 9200 square feet of shallow soils with slightly elevated levels of PCBS on a portion of the track field.

“Clean soils meeting chemical quality standards for restricted residential use were imported to make up the top 6 in. of soil cover as temporarily restoration until the full extent of subsurface soil remediation in this rea is completed in the future,” the DEC said.

The pollution dates back to the 1970s, back when the Elmira High School District built the High School on top of a former industrial site.

“Why did this school put children at risk for forty years?” one resident asked the DEC.

The DEC, however, said there is no contamination at the surface level. The next area to be completed will be the parking lot, which will start in June and be completed by August. Residents, though, remain skeptical, and say it has been way too long.

“This has been going on quite a while and nothing’s been done about it,” another resident said. “I live across the street, and I see what’s going on.”