New Testing for Toxics at Portola High; 8 tests for a 3-Acre Site #Fail



The Tuesday March 22 meeting of the Irvine Unified School Board will hold a public hearing with a goal of informing the community on the additional statewide testing at Portola High; not specifically mentioned in the communications with IUSD parents is the number of actual additional tests being conducted.  We count eight.  Eight additional tests on a three acre site.  Eight.  Let that sink in for a moment.

Here’s what Superintendent Terry Walker had to say in an email sent last week:

IUSD has been working closely with officials from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), regarding their request to collect additional soil samples to reaffirm the safety of the site.  On March 8, DTSC Division Chief Dot Lofstrom and her team met with IUSD staff at the school site to determine where the additional samples will be taken and to develop a draft workplan.  District staff will present the draft workplan to the IUSD Board of Education during a public meeting on Tuesday, March 22 at 7 p.m. at the District Office (5050 Barranca Parkway, Irvine).  ***A representative from DTSC will be available to answer questions.****

Perhaps the real reason there are only eight new tests scheduled is because Portola High is in month 20 of a 26-month construction cycle and to do the testing right in multiple spots across the three acre campus would require testers to bore through concrete; an expensive proposition considering this sort of testing should have been done long before the bulldozers moved in.

Eight additional tests over three acres is completely inadequate and its embarrassing the district to use eight additional tests as some sort of guarantee of safety.  Want to see where they are testing?  Click here.  Look for the green squares.

Mr. Walker attests safety is the district’s priority, but the resistance to the testing that was called for well before construction started gives me pause.  In his email from today, this paragraph:

Thank you for your engagement and interest in our students and schools.  The safety of our students, staff and the community is the District’s priority and we look forward to going through this process to reaffirm the safety of the Portola High School site, which will open this August.

But what if the testing finds something?  Are we still on board for an August opening?

Everything you need to know about the district’s position on the additional testing is found in this email from John Fogarty of the District to Dot Lofstrom of the State of California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC):

> On Mar 3, 2016, at 6:15 PM, John Fogarty <> wrote:

> Dot,

> You also may want to pass along that the high school is 20 months into a 26 month schedule and the project is roughly $300 million…

Sent from my iPhone

So that’s code for “Crap, the school is nearly finished and it will cost an arm and a leg if we have to stop building it because you found some awful stuff in the ground that we missed in our perimeter tests so test as little as possible but don’t slow us down.”

I’m just glad my kids aren’t going to this new school.  If your kids will be, you ought to demand answers from the District and ask why only eight new tests are going to be adequate.  My daughter’s high school has an event I can’t miss or I’d be there asking,

Start by asking the district if anyone knows if those 70 dumptrucks of dirty hauled away that had naphthalene, a chemical found commonly in moth balls, were dumped somewhere or if the payloads were incinerated.  Because if they were incinerated, that’s serious.  Naphthalene didn’t show up when the site was tested and deemed “safe.”   So forgive me when I just don’t believe the superintendent when he says safety is a priority when it comes to this significant construction project.



  2 comments for “New Testing for Toxics at Portola High; 8 tests for a 3-Acre Site #Fail

  1. Ltpar
    March 22, 2016 at 10:44 am

    I ran into a guy who works for a firm who has done soil testing at the former El Toro Marine base. We got to talking about the problems of contaminated ground and if it was or wasn’t a hazard. He shared with me the fact previous test have been a joke, not addressed real issues or taken samples from the right places. With the school already partially built, it seems the School District is a day late and many dollars short on assuring protection for the kids who will attend the school. Does anybody really think they will at this late date discover it is not safe and cancel construction. I would guess more doctored tests and more taking samples at places where they know no contamination will be found. While the City Council has no jurisdiction over where the school is built, I would encourage the City to consider future liability should they not take every precaution to assure the safety of our kids. Does Flint, Michigan ring a bell? The City should spend the money and order their own tests at the places where they know underground tanks had been placed. Better to be safe than sorry.

    • March 22, 2016 at 11:32 am

      I’m pretty sure the district will face liability issues. The initial testing was perimeter.

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