UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT for the CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA (Western Division – Los Angeles)
CIVIL CASE #: 2:15-cv-02124-PA-AJW
SMMUSD remediates wrong classroom that also tests 100 times higher than legal limit
Defendant’s Calamity of Errors Validates Plaintiff’s PCB Lawsuit
New evidence indicates that the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District failed to remediate the Malibu High School PE office that tested positive for high levels of PCB contamination in 2014 and mistakenly tested and remediated a completely different office on the opposite side of the building, which incidentally also contained high levels of PCBs.
The PE office that has still not been remediated is located on the South side of the old gym near the outdoor basketball courts and was independently tested in 2014 and found to have PCB levels four times above legal limit. In March 2015, SMMUSD contractors were tasked with retesting all areas that were previously independently tested. After careful examination of their data, the wrong room was tested. Instead, the district’s contractors tested an unused office on the North side of the building, which also proved to have high levels of PCBs. The district then remediated this unused office during the summer of 2015.
The unremediated, contaminated office is used daily by Malibu High School PE faculty, including one of the three original teachers diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Today, a total of five teachers have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, while 14 of 30 middle school teachers, almost 50%, have reported thyroid disease.
In November of 2013, dangerously high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls—PCBs, a group of highly toxic chemicals that are documented to be carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, were identified at Malibu High School.
This all unfolded last week when teachers questioned Carry Upton, SMMUSD’s Director, Theater Operations & Facility Permits about his confidence that all PCBs over 50 ppm were removed. According to Carey he was confident they were. Yet when one of the teachers told him that the wrong office was remediated, they claim he looked dumbfounded.
The office that was overlooked by the district’s contractors appears on America Unites’ map of MHS contamination marked in orange, with the notation: 190 ppm. The map also clearly shows a red star that indicates that a MHS faculty member associated with that specific location has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The empty room the district remediated instead has no special designation on the map.
America Unites for Kids and PEER, two environmental advocacy organizations who have filed a citizen’s suit under the Toxic Substances Control Act against the district for the removal of PCBs over 50 ppm, claim the error, and the subsequent findings that the unoccupied room which was tested by mistake also contained high levels PCBs adds new urgency to America Unites’ call for additional testing and remediation.
“In the district’s calamity of errors, they have proven our legal position for us: like-caulking in the same building will also have high levels of PCBs and therefore all like-caulking in the building is in violation of Federal law and must be removed,” said Attorney Charles Avrith of Naglar & Associates who is representing America Unites for Kids and PEER in a Federal lawsuit filed against SMMUSD under the Toxic Substances Control Act for illegal use of PCBs. “Contrary to what the District contends, there is no standard practice that every inch of caulk needs to be tested or verified by the district to be an illegal use. A standard like that would be unreasonable.”
SMMUSD tested the soil for PCBs and other chemicals in both 2009 and again in 2014 under supervision from the California EPA’s Department of Toxic Substance Control and used a representative sampling plan to determine the extent of PCB contamination that required removal. When the district tested for PCBs at Santa Monica High School and Olympic High School in the spring of 2015, they also used a representative sampling plan to determine the PCB content of different building materials, according to the District’s “Final Olympic PCB Inspection Report” found on their website,
“In general, Ramboll Environ considered materials that were applied in a similar manner, and had similar physical attributes such as size, type, color, age, and texture as homogeneous.”
This same representative sampling technique used at the Santa Monica High Schools is what America Unites for Kids and PEER have been advocating for over the past two years. They claim based on the caulk testing they and the district have done to date, all materials that were applied in a similar manner, and had similar physical attributes such as size, type, color, age, and texture also have illegal levels of PCBs and require removal under Federal law. This matter is currently playing out in Federal Court and is set to go to trial May 17th, 2016. This case can set precedent to properly identify and remove illegal and unsafe PCBs from all schools.
PCBs Affect a Whole Building, Not Just a Single Window
If PCB-laden caulking over 50ppm has been found in one classroom, then it is probable that PCB-laden caulk is in all classrooms in that building. It would be absurd to propose removal of only the tested window (which is what the district has proposed) when adjacent windows used the same caulking that contain high levels of PCBs.
This Malibu High School and Malibu Middle School along with Jaun Cabrillo’s campus map highlighting testing results of toxins and presence of illness (thyroid cancer, thyroid disease and nodules) paints a pretty convincing picture of the harm already caused.
For map in pdf, go to:
See the many test results which reveal shockingly high PCB exposure at Malibu High School and Jaun Cabrillo Elementary School:
DECEMBER 2015 UPDATE ON CURRENT HEALTH ISSUES WITH STUDENTS AND TEACHERS AT MALIBU SCHOOLS
There is a statistically significant “relationship” between spending your days at Malibu High School and Thyroid Cancer
Over $6,500,000 spent so far and still rising!
See letter to Sandra Lyon and the SMMUSD’s Board of Education dated Oct. 7, 2013 from AMPS, Malibu High PTSA, The Shark Fund, The Boys & Girls Club of Malibu, members of the Malibu High School Site Council, & Malibu Special Education Demanding that the SMMUSD take Steps to Keep Our Children and Teachers Safe:
In January 2014, SMMUSD staff raised concerns about PCB exposure in Malibu High School and Middle School (MHS) and Juan Cabrillo Elementary School (JCS) after three teachers reported thyroid cancer diagnoses.
See letter to Sandra Lyon from 12 teachers at Malibu High School:
The SMMUSD is misleading the public with false statements to try and justify their choice to keep exposing Malibu children to cancerous, toxic PCBs.
ON OCTOBER 24, 2015 AMERICA UNITES FOR KIDS RELEASED ADDITIONAL DISCOVERY CONCERNING SUPERINTENDENT SANDRA LYON
In 2013-14, Superintendent Sandra Lyon did not tell Malibu High School teachers and parents that their children were occupying classrooms that the previous teacher just reported having thyroid cancer as well as other previous teachers also having cancer.
See Congressman Ted Lieu’s letter to Jennifer DeNicola regarding Malibu High School’s latest PCB Test Results being sent to EPA’s Administrator Gina McCarthy:
See news articles concerning the SMMUSD Pressing Vandalism and Trespassing Charges Against the Parent who Proved that the Malibu Schools are Contaminated with Toxic Cancer Causing PCBs:
In a bizarre twist, public school officials have filed a police report against a Malibu parent who allegedly took samples of window caulking from school buildings to test for toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), according to documents released by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) is also actively looking for teachers and other community members who may be involved, even as two elected board members have condemned the effort. (see attached emails from Board members Craig Foster and Oscar de la Torre)
See School Board Member emails here:
For two years Malibu Middle and High School and Juan Cabrillo Elementary School have been in an uproar as more than 30 Malibu teachers and alumni have come forward with serious health issues known to be related to PCB exposure.
The Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District appears to be more interested in attempting to limit their exposure to liability from a toxic tort complaint, rather than to just simply comply with the TSCA, and protect its students and teachers from this continuing harm.
The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s Classroom Teachers Association Urges SMMUSD Officials to Consider the Well-being of its Children and Staff
Santa Monica Teacher’s Public Comment:
I am a teacher at John Adams middle School. My classroom has been between 86 and 88 degrees every day since school started. I have not been provided with a fan and I’m using two of my own. It is unbearable . I have been suffering from heat exhaustion. My symptoms include nausea, dizziness and an inability to focus. My students are unable to concentrate. This is not a new issue. It is hot for at least 3 months out of every school year since I started working for SMMUSD 15 years ago. This is unacceptable.” 16 September 2015 20:20 See link: http://smdp.com/concerns-classroom-temps-heat/150774
Superintendent Sandra Lyon also ordered the use of Fumitoxins and Strychnine on Saturday, Aug 22, 2015 at Malibu High School, Juan Cabrillo and Webster Elementary schools despite hundreds of letters from parents in protest.
Her reckless actions put kids and wildlife at risk.
See link to Malibu Parent’s letter to Superintendent Sandra Lyon and Published in the Malibu Times on September 4, 2015:
Malibu Parent’s Letter: Protecting Children
Malibu Parent Stacie Cox’ Public Comment about Superintendent Sandra Lyon:
“An empathetic and confident leader would make all her decisions based on how to best protect children, and not make decisions based on legally what she can get away with. You seem to act on false information, archaic ideals, and without a conscience. Your behavior is unconscionable and you should be ashamed of yourself.”
The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s Superintendent Sandra Lyon should be fired for not adequately protecting the School District’s students and teachers from all of this continuing harm.
For details, go to:
ITS TIME TO FIRE SUPERINTENDENT SANDRA LYON
Email the Santa Monica Unified School District’s Board of Education: firstname.lastname@example.org