MALIBU HIGH SCHOOL — Amid controversy over environmental issues at Malibu High School, the Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner of Weights and Measures cited the school district for a pesticide violation.
Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Superintendent Sandra Lyon said that they were cited because the district failed to “issue fully compliant notification.”
“In addition to signs that are posted at the site, we need to also post no less than 24 hours prior to a specific application,” Lyon wrote in an e-mail. “This posting must include the pests being managed, the specific pesticides or rodenticide being applied, the date and time of application and any precautions individuals entering the area should follow. These postings must remain in place for no less than 72 hours after the application.”
For the time being, Lyon said, the district discontinued the use of all pesticides and fertilizers at the Malibu campuses while they review their practices.
Naira Nurijanyan, an associate inspector with the county, said it could take a year to decide whether to issue a fine or send a warning letter to the district. Fines range from $50 to more than $1,000, she said.
“It is not a rare citation but it’s not common for us to cite a school,” she said. “It is important to notify the public especially when it comes to schools. When you do notify the public they are more likely to avoid areas that have been treated. That tends to result in less cases of exposure, which is ultimately our goal.”
Environmental issues came to the forefront last year when three Malibu teachers announced they had thyroid cancer and more than a dozen others claimed they had negative health symptoms. District officials ran tests in the school and came back with samples of PCB, a cancer causing substance, with levels high enough to trigger Environmental Protection Agency involvement. The district is in the midst of a remediation process.
District officials are now working on a pest management program that meets all the provisions of the Healthy Schools Act, Lyon said.
“We will look for responsible ways to balance the range of requests from toxin-free to pest-free, including insects and rodents,” she said. “Our goal will be to find a healthy balance.”
Malibu Unites, a community organization formed in the wake of the recent environmental issues, claimed responsibility for bringing the pesticide violation to light.
“I cannot believe the district would so carelessly apply pesticides on the grounds at our schools,” said Malibu parent Dana Friedman in a release from Malibu Unites. “The district consistently fails to inform parents about important issues that affect the health of our children. They have shown us they can not be trusted with our children’s safety.”
Lyon said she plans to present a recommendation to the Board of Education that all environmental vendor contracts include specific language about notification requirements.
“I intend to make clear to all who work with the district our expectation that they will help us be responsible to all laws and regulations regarding public health,” she said.
Employees and school families can contact their school offices or the district’s Integrated Pest Management Coordinator Terance Venable, Lyon said, to be placed on a list to get individual notifications of all regulated pesticides and rodenticides.