Editor’s Note: This is a letter to parents and staff from SMMUSD Superintendent Sandra Lyon regarding alleged vandalism at Malibu High School and Juan Cabrillo Elementary School.
Dear Parents and Staff,
I was recently made aware of vandalism at Malibu High School (MHS) and Juan Cabrillo Elementary School (JCES). Repaired building materials were damaged in areas where remediation work in connection with polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) removal activities was completed over the summer 2015 school break.
Initial evidence indicates that last month unauthorized individuals illegally entered the MHS and JCES campuses and vandalized the areas that were repaired during the summer, as well as numerous other locations throughout the two schools. Two or more people were observed entering rooms at the property and using box cutters to slice out and carry away pieces of the building materials in several classrooms. Recent reports from America Unites detailing test results from caulk taken in June, August, and September also provide evidence of previous unauthorized access and vandalism to our campuses. News reports this week referencing test results provided to Congressman Ted Lieu’s office are referring to these same unauthorized samples.
To ensure that the buildings affected by this vandalism remain safe to occupy, we asked Ramboll Environ, the District’s lead environmental contractor for the summer removal work and other sampling activities, whether this property damage places any students or staff at risk of exposure to unsafe levels of PCBs. After investigating both campuses, they advised us to continue use of our Best Management Practices (BMP) cleaning in the vandalized areas to ensure that classrooms continue to remain below United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA’s) health-protective thresholds for schools.
As has been previously reported, since this issue was first raised two years ago, the schools have consistently had very low or non-detectable levels of PCBs in dust and air. Despite these negligent acts of others on our campuses, Ramboll Environ has informed us that by following our BMP cleaning there is no increased risk to building occupants pending completion of the repair work.
Ramboll Environ also informed us that all of the previously repaired areas that were damaged will need to undergo repair and that areas with damaged USEPA-required encapsulant will require re-encapsulation and further evaluation testing in accordance with the USEPA’s approval conditions. The results will be publicly reported to confirm that the property has been returned to the approved condition.
Due to the tens of thousands of dollars in damage and the destruction of school property caused by these activities, this incident has been reported to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which is investigating. The District is fully cooperating with the investigation.
The Board encourages all individuals to assist in maintaining a safe and secure school environment. Any person who is not a student or staff member shall sign in when entering any school building or grounds when school is in session. When not in session, individuals are only allowed to be on site when participating in permitted activities. This is a safety precaution that all schools employ for a wide variety of measures to ensure campus security for students and staff.
The USEPA was informed upon discovery of the vandalism.
Despite the vandalism to our school property, the District is pleased to inform you that the USEPA released a letter concluding that summer removal activities at MHS and JCES met all USEPA requirements and guidance. The letter states that, with continued implementation of the District’s BMPs, there is no need for additional testing of potential PCB source materials (e.g., caulk) at the schools until planned renovation or demolition occurs. We are very pleased with the validation of our work and ongoing BMP cleaning efforts.
Additional information regarding recent USEPA correspondence on our activities is posted: http://www.smmusd.org/news/news1516/EPAapproval110415.pdf.
We understand that there are renewed health concerns among some of our staff. We want to remind everyone, and especially those with health concerns, that of health issues associated with PCBs at MHS and JCES were evaluated last year by Dr. Cyrus Rangan of the LA County Department of Health (LADPH) who investigated these concerns and determined a link could not be substantiated. The health and safety of our students and staff continue to be our first priority and we will reach out to LADPH again and also to Ramboll Environ’s epidemiologists for a follow up report. The previous report is posted on our website: http://www.smmusd.org/publicnotices/DPHResponse-Cancer0214.pdf. We encourage you to report medical concerns of this nature to the LADPH to include in their data collection.
We assure you that, with respect to the vandalism at MHS and JCES, SMMUSD and Ramboll Environ will work closely with USEPA to rectify the situation, repair the damage, and move forward with ensuring the continued safety of students and staff at MHS and JCES.
Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District