SMMUSD Superintendent Issues Update On Site Testing At Malibu Schools

Tuesday, 19 Nov 2013, 8:21:00 AM

Brenton Garen

Editor's Note: Below is a statement from Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District superintendent Sandra Lyon with an update on the environmental testing at Malibu schools. 

I am pleased to inform you that the Malibu Schools Environmental Task Force met this weekend to review the first preliminary results of PCB air sampling tests conducted at Malibu High School late last month. We were encouraged by the preliminary results, which show that PCB levels throughout the school are well below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) public health guidelines for schools (www.epa.gov/wastes/hazard/tsd/pcbs/pubs/caulk/health_levl.htm).

The group found this early data reading reassuring, as we await additional testing data that will be released later this week. The early data is a small part of our comprehensive effort to identify any potential risks and sources of contamination that may exist in our schools. The Task Force and its experts need to complete a more detailed review, as it was clear that while the overall levels of PCBs at the school fall well below risk guidelines, some individual congeners (specific PCBs) found will require further testing and will be part of any wide-ranging effort to assure the health and safety of all our staff and our school children.

The test results we reviewed are one of three key PCB tests, which include (1) airborne samples, (2) bulk samples and (3) wipe sampling. The two remaining areas of sampling will give us a better understanding of what might be the source of the PCBs. The bulk and wipe testing results are due to the District later this week and will be reviewed by the MSETF on Thursday. On our website and at the EPA.gov website you can find fact sheets about PCBs in schools. At this time, we cannot speculate as to the source of PCBs, and we should have a better idea of what the source may be once we get the wipe and bulk sampling back (www.epa.gov/pcbsincaulk/pdf/caulkschools2.pdf).

The preliminary test results measuring airborne PCBs at Malibu High School were provided on Friday, November 15; I asked the group to meet this weekend to review these data and outline next steps before the beginning of the school week.

The full Task Force is committed to review the incoming data and provide to our full school community timely information. I hope that you will join me in thanking this group for taking time, and with little notice, to meet on the weekend.

Because PCBs were commonly used in lighting ballasts (from the early 1970s through the 1990s), that has been a source of PCBs in other schools and districts. Although we knew our district had replaced ballasts in our schools, we did a complete re-inspection of all ballasts at MHS and confirmed that all ballasts at Malibu High School had been identified and replaced. This will also be done at Juan Cabrillo Elementary School.

The airborne PCB test results were conducted at Malibu High School, and, as planned, tests will be extended to Juan Cabrillo Elementary School. We want to ensure that the tests we conduct at Cabrillo give us useable data so that we can create the most effective plan for whatever remediation is indicated by the results.

Last week, we also received input on test results for Radon, EMF and CO2 that was conducted at both campuses. We did see slightly elevated CO2 levels in some classrooms; this we believe is due in part to larger class sizes, and ventilation issues in some of the older classrooms. We are taking immediate action, the first of which is to instruct our health and safety team to begin this week to identify an air balance technician who can work with us to determine what we need to do to address this issue. We are also seeking input from our executive team, principals and others at each site as to what can be done to improve ventilation and reduce CO2.

The complete action plan for recommended remediation will be posted to the website after this week, when all test data is received, reviewed and areas of concern, if any, are pin pointed. All test data will be posted to the website.

We know these issues have caused great stress and concern and we appreciate all you are doing to work with us as we determine next steps. We also know that people want immediate answers and complete plans. Please know that we will continue to work with the volunteers on the task force and consult experts at state and federal agencies who can give us guidance as we move forward.

Sandra Lyon

SMMUSD Superintendent

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