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Santa Monica District Testing for Toxins at Two Schools

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By Lookout Staff

April 2, 2015 -- Workers are taking advantage of spring break in the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District to test building material samples for toxic substances at two high schools slated for upcoming renovation projects.

Crews this week began testing for cancer-causing PCBs at Santa Monica High, where a 62-year-old technology building is slated for demolition, and at Olympic High, where four buildings are scheduled to be demolished and rebuilt, with construction beginning this fall, said Gail Pinsker, district spokeswoman.

Following district policies and procedures, all four of the buildings must be tested for PCBs before demolition. In February 2014, the district hired ENVIRON International Corp., a consultant, to create a comprehensive plan for identifying and disposing of building materials containing PCBs, according to a draft of the plan.

Sampling and testing at the two campuses began Monday and will continue through Friday, April 10. Students are scheduled to return from spring break on Monday, April 13, Pinsker said.

Before they were banned in the United States, PCBs -- polychlorinated biphenyl – were used in caulking and glazing materials, added to paints and floor finishes and used as sealants for heating systems and plumbing and as insulation for electrical equipment.

PCBs have been shown to cause cancer in animals and other harmful health effects, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Santa Monica school official want to ensure that all PCBs in the targeting buildings are identified and “disposed of at off-site facilities” before renovations begin, Pinsker said.

Renovation work at both schools is being funded through Measure BB, a $268 million facilities improvement bond approved by Santa Monica and Malibu voters in 2006, she said.

Santa Monica High received a new $55 million science and technology building slated to open in August. Constructed in 1952, the old technology building will be demolished this fall and replaced by a new softball field and parking lot as part of an overall modernization plan for Samohi.

The new science and tech building features 20 classrooms, 15 science labs and an auto repair shop, Pinsker said.

Olympic High will get four new renovated buildings as part of a $5.5 million modernization project that features a new music classroom, a modernized library and a new computer lab, she said.

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