SMMUSD Retains Firm To Assess Malibu Schools' Environmental Health

Wednesday, 22 Jan 2014, 9:17:00 AM

Mirror Staff

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education on Thursday unanimously approved the recommendation to retain Environ International Corporation.

The multi-national environmental engineering firm will help the District achieve its goal of assessing Malibu schools’ environmental health, reporting the results, remediating or mitigating problems and taking all necessary steps to assure employees and the community that our schools are healthy learning and working environments.

At the Jan. 16 Board meeting, the staff announced that Environ was the recommendation of the interview panel, which included representatives from across the District and school community.

The Board directed staff to initiate work with Environ immediately.

SMMUSD Superintendent Sandra Lyon said the District was asking Environ to address all community questions and concerns, to outline a testing, assessment and mitigation plan and to carefully consider the conflicting opinions that our school community is hearing from scientists, including professionals in the EPA.

“We know that the topics are deeply emotional; we have staff and community members who want assurances that our schools are safe and the assurances must come from science experts, both environmental and health," Lyon said. "To the extent test results require it, appropriate remediation and mitigation will be planned and performed. Emotions must be heard, and science must address these emotions.”

Last year, when teachers at Malibu High School informed the District of serious personal health concerns and worries that these may be connected to the school environment, the district put in place a plan of action, including:

1. Relocating teachers who were concerned about classroom health following trenching that took place on the Malibu High School campus last summer. Thirteen teachers and their students were relocated in November 2013.

2. Establishing a Malibu environmental task force to help facilitate communication between District staff and community, including school employees, parents, students and the community.

3. Conducting preliminary testing on the MHS campus, gathering information to guide our next steps. The Phylmar Group was retained to conduct the preliminary testing, which is now completed.

4. Retaining an environmental team to assess and, where necessary, remediate or mitigate the situation to ensure that we achieve our goal of assuring our employees and community that our schools are healthy learning and working environments.

Now that we have preliminary test information, we have instructive information.  And, we have remaining unanswered community questions, all of which will be provided to Environ so these experts can assess our situation and outline the next steps. 

Two key pieces of instructive information are: (1) The EPA Region IX has said the PCB levels in the air are within the health limits established by the EPA, but recommended that Best Management Cleaning Practices should be implemented.

Environ will be tasked to create a comprehensive cleaning plan for our District; and (2) We must address aging caulk, which in some windows contained levels of PCBs that exceed the regulatory limit.

Environ, in consultation with the EPA and DTSC, will guide us through the assessment and remediation of the window caulking.

Superintendent Lyon stressed that we still have remaining unanswered questions from our community and employees, and we made a commitment to test at Juan Cabrillo Elementary School.

These questions and District commitments will inform Environ’s plan.

All testing data, EPA reports, District facilities audits, and all questions asked by community members and employees at the December Study Session (http://santamonica.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=5&clip_id=3174), the PEER letters, which outline employee concerns and documents produced and presented by Malibu Concerned Parents will be provided to Environ.

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