MALIBU — A group of disaffected parents and community stakeholders has launched a new independent group, Malibu Unites, in an effort to push for further public transparency and comprehensive safety assessments as the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District grapples with issues of environmental safety at Malibu High, Middle and Juan Cabrillo Elementary schools.
Another group formerly known as Malibu Parents for Healthy Schools has also merged with Malibu Unites.
“The organization’s first goal is to advocate for the parents and community members to execute a comprehensive plan with the district to identify and remove any toxic substances present at Malibu High/Middle Schools and the adjacent Juan Cabrillo Elementary School,” according to a statement issued by Malibu Unites.
Both groups formed in the wake of environmental controversy at Malibu High School and Middle School when a group of teachers came forward with several health concerns last October, including three suffering from thyroid cancer. Controversy further erupted when it was revealed that toxic soils were found at Malibu High in 2010 and the school district did not notify parents about the situation.
The district performed numerous tests on the campus and found that the levels of PCB, a cancer-causing substance, in the dust and caulk samples were high enough to trigger oversight from the state and federal governments.
Jennifer DeNicola, president of Malibu Unites and a local parent who became heavily involved in advocacy for safety when the health scare first broke, said Malibu Unites plans to hire its own consultants and experts to assist in work already being contracted out by the school district.
The school district recently signed a contract with the firm Environ to conduct all campus testing and cleanup. The cost of the contract has yet to be revealed, but the district has already spent around $500,000.
“Our hope is to work side by side with the school district,” DeNicola said.
The organization’s Advisory Council includes recognizable names such as Cindy Crawford, Emilio Estevez and City Councilman Skylar Peak, along with other respected scientific and medical experts.
“The Advisory Council is made up of doctors, medical professionals, scientists … that actually do study this every day,” DeNicola said. “These are the top minds across the country that deal with toxins and how they affect the human body.”
State agrees to comprehensive soil testing
The state Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has agreed to propose testing of soil samples at all three campuses involved in the health scare.
Parents first began pushing for comprehensive soil testing last October when it was discovered that the district had removed more than 1,000 tons of potentially contaminated soil from the high school and middle school.
According to an e-mail sent to the group by Maria Gillette of DTSC, the agency “is proposing to conduct a Preliminary Environmental Assessment (PEA) for the soil at the entire Malibu HS Campus (including the Middle and Elementary Schools).”
This article first appeared in The Malibu Times.