Court Finds Toxic Violations in Malibu Schools
Judge Finds that PCBs Exist Throughout the Schools and Must be Cleaned Up
Washington, DC — A federal court has ruled in favor Plaintiffs Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and America Unites for Kids, confirming that older buildings in Malibu Middle and High School and Juan Cabrillo Elementary School are riddled with illegal levels of hazardous chemicals, in violation of the Toxic Substances Control Act.
In the September 1, 2016 ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson found that based on the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District’s own testing in 20 rooms, with “most over 100,000 ppm (parts-per-million) and measurements up to 570,000 ppm” compared to the statutory limit of only 50 ppm:
“The Court concludes, based on common sense, that it is highly likely that the same products were used to construct each of the buildings on the Malibu Campus. As a result, for the buildings completed at the Malibu Campus prior to 1979, and at which certain locations have been tested and found to contain caulk with PCBs in excess of 50 ppm, it is more likely than not that caulk containing PCBs in excess of 50 ppm remain in ‘use’ at the Malibu Campus in areas that have not been tested or repaired.”
The Court ordered that the school district remove all PCBs or cease using the toxic buildings:
“Defendants are hereby permanently enjoined from using any office, classroom, or other structure at Juan Cabrillo Elementary School (‘JCES’) and Malibu Middle and High School (‘MHS’) (collectively the ‘Malibu Campus’) constructed prior to 1979 in which students, teachers, administrators, or staff are regularly present after December 31, 2019, unless all window and door systems and surrounding caulk at any such location has been replaced.”
EPA has deemed PCBs a probable carcinogen and scientific evidence has shown that they lower IQ, interfere with brain and body development, and cause neurological, endocrine and thyroid disruption. The District expended $13 million to avoid removal, including $6 million on legal fees to fight this case.
The Court rejected the District’s argument that no violations were proven, finding that:
“Although Defendants have removed and replaced the caulk from the specific areas and rooms identified in their testing as exceeding the 50 ppm threshold, and some other areas may have had doors and windows repaired or replaced after 1979, there is no evidence that all of the caulk in the buildings at the Malibu Campus constructed prior to 1979 has been tested or removed.”
“The court has confirmed that citizens can bring suits to enforce Toxic Substances Control Act when the Environmental Protection Agency has failed to do so,” stated PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein, “rejected the District’s absurd argument that violations cannot be found for entire buildings unless every window or door has been tested, and confirmed that once violations are found, a court must require removal.”
“Without this lawsuit, students and teachers would be sitting in PCB classrooms indefinitely,” said Jennifer de Nicola, a Malibu High School parent who is President of America Unites for Kids. “Our work has made huge strides to protect kids and teachers from PCBs. While we would love for all the students and teachers to be protected from PCBs immediately, this is a big step forward from the District’s original 15-year ‘do nothing’ plan. What matters most is that, based on the judge’s ruling, Malibu’s students and teachers will finally have the PCB-free schools they deserve.”