America Unites (AU), formerly known as Malibu Unites, is turning up the heat on the Santa Monica- Malibu Unified School District for funding environmental consultants to monitor environmental situations and spending hundreds of thousands on legal services instead of remediating areas where high presences of PCBs have been found in Malibu schools.
AU and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) are up in arms over SMMUSD continuing to fund the legal firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. According to documents obtained by the groups, $775,000 has been allocated toward the firm so far while an estimated $2.7 million has been spent on environmental consultants.
Since news first broke of potential environmental hazards in building materials at Malibu High School, Middle School and Juan Cabrillo Elementary in Oct. 2013 — which some believe also caused three teachers to be diagnosed with thyroid cancer — the school district has been under heavy fire.
The environmental consulting agency Environ was also retained by the district and has conducted air and dust testing, but many parents and members of AU have urged for testing of building materials such as caulk.
“The district has refused to do schoolwide caulk testing even though district and independent samples reveal that 17 classrooms in seven buildings throughout the tri-school campus, educating students ages 5-18, contain caulk with PCBs above levels allowed by the Toxic Substances Control Act,” AU and PEER said in a joint release. “Most rooms still have not had the caulk tested and of those that have, several are up to 7,000 times the legal limit.”
Documents also show the district has paid for its consultants to stay in a $9,000-per-month Malibu condo and funded hotel stays in San Francisco.
“Full PCB remediation could have been completed by now for far less than the district has spent on consultants and lawyers,” said AU President Jennifer deNicola.