District Responds to Allegations Over PCB Test Results

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District has spoken out in an attempt to clear the air following allegations that they intentionally withheld information on PCB test results leading up to a school board meeting in Malibu last Thursday.

On Thursday, the district held a School Board meeting at Malibu City Hall where the issue of PCBs, polychlorinated biphenyls that exist in the caulk of Malibu High School, Malibu Middle School and Juan Cabrillo Elementary, appeared on the agenda as a discussion item.

One day later, the district released a 200-page document containing data on test results that reflect PCBs in concentrations higher than any previous tests have revealed.

According to the data, the highest level of PCB concentration is in caulk taken from the music room at Juan Cabrillo Elementary School, where PCB levels are at 570,000 mg/kg (parts per million).

On Tuesday, district spokesperson Gail Pinsker stated that the district received the data on Friday and released it the same day, a statement that she held to in a follow-up statement.

“We received and posted the report on Friday. We notified the community on Monday,” Pinsker said in an email.

Also included in the email is the following district statement:

“During the Study Session at the SMMUSD Board of Education meeting on Thursday, March 19, 2015, ENVIRON disclosed that, in an attempt to verify the results of independent testing done in some of the classrooms at the schools, it found several locations in addition to those previously identified where building materials contain PCBs in excess of 50 ppm. Those locations are now scheduled for removal pursuant to EPA’s approval, as stated in the report. Our first priority is the health and safety of our students.”

According to this statement, it appears Environ’s representatives did have the data previous to the meeting.

The document containing the test results, which was sent from Doug Daugherty and Eric S. Wood, Principals for Environ, the district’s environmental consulting company, said these areas “will be addressed using the methods described in the October 2014 Approval.”

This October 2014 Approval is the document from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that dictates the district “remove from Malibu High School and Juan Cabrillo Elementary School any newly-discovered PCB-containing caulk within one year after the District verifies that the caulk contains PCBs at or above 50 ppm.”

In response to the release of the new PCB test results, which show PCB levels up to 11,000 times the 50 ppm limit — the safety threshold — legal counsel for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) Paula Dinerstein called the actions of the district “monstrous.”

“These results are the smoking gun evidence, from its own gun, that the district is in flagrant violation of the Toxic Substances Control Act,” Dinnerstein said in a statement.

PEER and America Unites for Kids, formerly Malibu Unites, filed a joint lawsuit against Sandra Lyon, Jan Maez and each member of the SMMUSD School Board.

Since high PCB levels at Malibu High School came to light in October of 2013, a heated debate has erupted as to the safest way to proceed with testing and cleanup.

PCBs were a common building material in the mid-20th century, but were later discovered to be hazardous substances and were broadly banned.

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