MALIBU HIGH SCHOOL — Results from testing and cleaning that occurred over winter break at Malibu High School were given a preliminary stamp of approval from the federal government.

The amount of PCBs, a cancer causing substance, found in the dust particles was reduced by 93 to 99 percent following the cleaning, according to a letter sent to the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District from the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday.

The amount of PCBs found in the air was cut in half in the classrooms, said Steve Armann, the EPA official managing the Malibu High School contamination.

All the results show levels that are within the range that the EPA finds acceptable, he said.

It should be noted that the EPA only reviewed the results from five rooms — the ones that previously triggered their involvement. The district tested and cleaned several other rooms. The EPA did not review the findings from those rooms.

In October, three Malibu teachers reported that they had thyroid cancer. More than a dozen others complained of health issues in a letter to the district.

District officials shuttered and tested several rooms. The levels of PCBs in caulk and dust samples were high enough to trigger the EPA’s involvement.

Before winter break, district officials announced that they would test the rooms, clean them, and then test them again before students returned.

Armann called the findings “preliminary” and gave the district 20 days to send a “full analytical data report” from the testing and cleaning.

EPA officials are currently reviewing results from their own testing. They plan to make them available next month.

Despite the positive preliminary results, some rooms remain shuttered, said Superintendent Sandra Lyon. Students and teachers will return once an environmental firm is brought on.

The Board of Education picked Environ last month but the contract is still being worked out. There is no word as to how much that might cost.

More than $340,000 has been spent on the contamination thus far.

More work is coming, Lyon wrote in an e-mail Tuesday.

“The EPA’s directions focus on Malibu High School, but I want to stress that I am keenly aware that we made promises to the staff at Juan Cabrillo Elementary School to conduct testing on that campus,” she said. “We shall.”

In his letter, Armann also told the district that they have until March 30 to submit a plan for resolving the contamination issues. The plan should address the removal of all contaminated caulk as well as any pre-1979 caulk that is deteriorating. After the removal, the district has to take air and dust samples of the area where the clean-up occurred. They also have to make sure air from all rooms in the buildings built before 1979 is tested.

Armann recommended thorough annual cleaning of the school to maintain air quality.

 

dave@smdp.com