EPA official tours Malibu High over health concerns

The regional director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will tour Malibu High School to look at the possible dangerous toxins on campus.
The regional director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency toured Malibu High School Friday and examined the possible dangerous toxins on campus. The tour was followed by meetings with school officials, parents and community leaders.

"I really love this school and I want it to be safe for everyone there, and I want the teachers to be safe," student Gabby Williams said.

About a third of Malibu High teachers complained last year about construction and moldy classrooms causing health problems. About 20 staff members, including three diagnosed with thyroid cancer, wrote a letter blaming their health issues on toxic conditions on campus.

"This is about parents deciding what is an appropriate risk for our own children, the district can't decide that, the EPA shouldn't be deciding that, they should give us the scientific evidence, but it's the parents who should decide what's safe enough for our kids," Jennifer DeNicola of Malibu Unites said. Malibu Unites is a collaboration between parents, teachers and community members working together for healthy, toxin-free schools.

Testing done last fall found that some caulk samples contained PCB levels above 50 parts per million, an EPA representative said. The caulking was found in several windows installed back in the 60s. Caulk with PCBs above 50 ppm is not authorized for use under the federal Toxic Substances Control Act.

Jared Blumenfeld of the EPA says the levels are acceptable.

"All of our sampling to date has been below the national PCB risk level that we care about," Blumenfeld said. "That doesn't mean there aren't issues, and we are going to continue with the district to make sure they do testing."

In October, students were temporarily moved from some classrooms because of the concerns.

Residents are angry that eight months after learning about the removal of more than 1,100 tons of toxic soil on campus, very limited testing has occurred. And parents are concerned students could be returning to contaminated classrooms this fall.

In 2010, the district removed 1,000 cubic yards of dirt after it tested positive for carcinogens, lead and pesticides. When asked if parents and teachers were informed at the time, the superintendent says the district went through the standard protocol. But many parents say they didn't know.

At a meeting Friday afternoon, parents argued that perhaps the tests are incomplete, and that some classrooms weren't checked at all.

"We are going to do a lot of testing this summer, and we are going to test the soil, it's not just about PCB's, we've found nine different toxicants that were in the soil.

School officials say they are complying with the EPA, some sections of the school are closed right now for cleaning and testing.

"We are right now in a process of inspection, some sampling, and then we are going to start work on the cleaning, some of that cleaning is happening now," Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Superintendent Sandra Lyon said.

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