The Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District will discuss potential actions to take with Malibu High School (MHS) in regards to the district’s removal process of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB) in an April 12 board meeting.
SMMUSD is under a court order to replace all pre-1979 window and door frames at MHS and Juan Cabrillo Elementary School (JCES) or to stop usage of buildings with PCBs (a carcinogenic contaminant) found in them by December 31, 2019.
The court order is limited only to caulking around windows and doors.
According to the school board agenda, the Facility Division of the district is in the midst of “balancing modernization, PCB remediation, Measure ES budget, potential bond, and future plans” for Malibu High School (MHS).
While the district has a plan in place to continue their modernization efforts where PCBs were found, the Malibu-Facilities Advisory Committee has had conversations to potentially replace all pre-1979 buildings at MHS.
Although there’s desire to “update and enhance” the campus (MHS was originally built to be a middle school), there’s worry of lingering PCBs in any construction at the school that took place between 1965 and 1979.
In the agenda, the Facility Division states they’ve developed a “working procedure” for managing PCBs in windows and caulking during construction projects. They add that their methods have “been successful as we encounter new areas of concern,” and will show this progress to the board.
Windows and caulking aside, the Facility Division says they’ve encountered PCBs in old flooring and a glue used to install tile flooring. Over 50 parts per million (ppm) of PCB was found in older and newer flooring.
This lead to a working relationship with the Environmental Protection Agency, Ramboll Corporations (previously Environ), and Alta Environmental to develop a plan to manage PCBs in flooring.
According to the school board agenda, the Facility Division says, “all air and wipe samples are significantly below the health protective levels set by the EPA and the recognized scientific community.”
Possible options moving forward for the Facility Division include considering replacement of all pre-1979 buildings and slowing PCB removal while finding ways to replace affected buildings and gain more funding.
The removal of PCB has been a long-storied saga for the district.
With PCB levels being discovered in 2013, the district was sued by Malibu activists in 2015 who sought to rid the district of PCBs after discovering the chemical in caulking at MHS and JCES.
In 2016, after an unauthorized chemical sampling of caulk was taken by Jennifer deNicola (one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit), U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson imposed sanctions on the Malibu activists, ordering them to compensate SMMUSD for repairs and legal fees for the sanction.
Later that same year, Judge Anderson ordered SMMUSD to remove all PCBs from Malibu High and Juan Cabrillo Elementary schools by the end of 2019.