Groups sue Malibu school officials to hasten cleanup of toxic contamination

State toxics regulators plan to test soil around Malibu High School.
State toxics regulators plan to test soil around Malibu High School.

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Parent and teacher groups have sued officials at the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District over their concern that the district's response to toxic contamination at two schools has been unsatisfactory.

Attorneys representing America Unites for Kids and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed the complaint on Monday. It claims that the school district continues to violate the Toxic Substances Control Act by not removing building materials contaminated by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) at Malibu High School and Juan Cabrillo Elementary School.

PCBs are associated with a host of health problems and are believed to be carcinogenic in humans.

The lawsuit seeks the immediate removal of materials contaminated with PCBs and for all schools to undergo comprehensive testing.

A website for the school district states that four classrooms and the wood shop at Malibu High School are scheduled to have potentially carcinogenic window caulk replaced by June 30.

An attorney for the plaintiffs said the district's response has been too slow.

“Across the country, we see school districts faced with similar conditions opt for immediate and complete removal but, by comparison, Malibu school officials seem stuck in the sand,” PEER senior counsel Paula Dinerstein stated in a press release.

In their presentation to a school board meeting last week, ENVIRON — the consulting company hired by the district— said that the Environmental Protection Agency has found both schools "are being managed in a manner protective of human health."

An official for the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District said that district policy does not allow comment on litigation but that the cleanup is proceeding as directed by the EPA.

“We are under the direction of the Toxic Substances Control Act through the EPA, and we are following their expert advice as regulators and our environmental consultants,” said Gail Pinsker, a spokeswoman for the district. “We are in compliance in all aspects of PCB removal and remediation.”

Copy of complaint:

Copy of the complaint

ENVIRON's presentation to the school board: 

Presentation to SMMUSD board

This story has been updated. Correction: An earlier version of this story mis-stated when the Dept. of Toxic Substances Control completed testing at the schools.