Failed Toxic Cleanup at Malibu Schools
Congressman Ted Lieu Sends EPA Reports of Illegal PCBs
Los Angeles — Despite spending millions of dollars since toxic Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) were discovered in Malibu public school buildings in October 2013, new tests sent by U.S. Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy today show that illegally high levels still remain, even in rooms the School District claims to have remediated. America Unites for Kids and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) have also revealed that a large and growing number of teachers in the entire elementary-middle and high school complex are reporting thyroid illness.
The controversy began two years ago when teachers came forward with health complaints they felt were caused by their school environment. PCBs cause cancer and reproductive issues, and inhibit the ability to learn. Early exposure to PCBs increases the risk of type 2 diabetes by 9 times and also increases the risk of future hypertension. PCBs also decrease thyroid function leading to thyroid disease and thyroid cancer, a problem afflicting Malibu teachers.
The new lab results provided by Congressman Lieu demonstrate that PCB contamination at levels well beyond federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) limits are still widespread throughout the pre-1980 buildings in Malibu Middle and High School. Disturbingly, several samples come from areas the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District has declared remediated. In fact, two windows which were specifically claimed to have been remediated were retested and both still contain illegal levels of PCBs.
“It is baffling how a District, whose job it is to protect children, can be so reckless. Kids are sitting in highly toxic classrooms which at the least are decreasing their ability to learn and at the most are increasing their chances of cancer,” said Jennifer deNicola, President of America Unites for Kids, a non-profit championing elimination of PCBs in schools. “This District has to stop fighting to avoid testing and realize there are sick teachers working in toxic buildings that are only making them sicker.”
Even as teacher health complaints mount, the District is preventing them from transferring out of highly contaminated areas. The District is also threatening parents who want to avoid sending their children into PCB hot spots with truancy charges.
The District has steadfastly resisted repeated calls for comprehensive testing. America Unites for Kids and PEER have brought a federal lawsuit against District officials and Board of Education members seeking compliance with the law by removing all illegal PCBs.
A mediation is scheduled in the lawsuit for November 13, 2015. It is the hope of America Unites and PEER that all Board of Education members will attend to make a sincere effort to resolve this serious problem affecting these schools. If the case does not settle, the court has set a trial date of May 17, 2016.
“These new lab results clearly show that entire buildings – not just a few windows and doors – are contaminated,” stated PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein. “We would hope that the District realizes that it cannot continue to mask its toxic condition; it is time to solve it.”
Now EPA has been presented by Malibu’s congressional representative with new locations with PCBs at levels requiring removal under federal law. If it follows the pattern of the past year, EPA will direct the District to abate those locations.