State to reconfirm safety of soil
Portola High School is scheduled to open in August 2016, joining a stellar lineup of Irvine public schools that draw residents to the city from around the world. In recent months, digital and print accounts regarding the testing of soils at the school site have been used as a wedge issue in the community.
At a meeting March 22, the five-member Irvine Unified School District board voted unanimously to expand the number of locations to re-test soil samples at the Portola High School site from the state recommended 10 to as many as 20 test locations. Dot Loftstrom, Department of Toxic Substance Control Division Chief and Acting Deputy Director, said that soil sampling and testing could begin as early as the last week in March, with final results expected sometime in early May.
In recent weeks, IUSD Superintendent Terry Walker has written and posted letters about soils testing at the Portola High School site, past and present:
March 17, 2016: newsflash.iusd.org/2016/03/portola-high-school-update-and-public-meeting-notice
March 25, 2016: newsflash.iusd.org/2016/03/iusd-board-hosted-17th-public-meeting-to-ensure-highest-standards-for-portola-high-site/
Perhaps most informative of all the many stories, online posts and documents written about testing of soil safety at the school is one posted at IUSD.org titled: “Fact Check: Portola High School.”
Excerpts are included below.
Fact Check: Portola High School
This August, the Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) will open Portola High School, Irvine’s fifth comprehensive high school. We share the community’s excitement about the opening of our new state-of-the-art school that will serve generations of Irvine students and their families for years to come.
However, the District is concerned about the continued and deliberate dissemination of information that mischaracterizes IUSD’s actions to ensure the safety of the school site. IUSD’s Fact Check provides thorough factual information and corrections to set the record straight.
The District’s priority is to “ensure the safety of our students, their families, our staff and anyone on our school sites.” Our job and promise is to provide the highest quality educational experience we can envision and that includes ensuring our students and school sites are safe.
> The following agencies and experts have studied, tested and approved the land for the Portola High School site and determined it is safe for children, staff and the community:
- California Dept. of Education
- California Environmental Protection Agency Dept. of Toxic Substances Control
- Department of the Navy
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- California Environmental Protection Agency State Water Resources Control Board
- Nationally respected IUSD consultants, including soil scientists, geologists, toxicologists, engineers, environmental scientists and construction experts
> All testing of the site has been done under DTSC oversight and in accordance with DTSC guidelines and state law. This independent process is the same for every school district in California.
> Toxic soil has never been found on the school site. Small amounts of non-hazardous stained soil, which did not originate on the school site, were found on the northern edge of the property. The soil was tested and determined to be non-hazardous by two independent testing labs. Although IUSD was not required to do so, the district removed the stained soil out of an abundance of caution.
>According to geotechnical soil and testing experts working on the school site, no unknown materials have been found on the site. These experts have observed all grading, excavation and backfill operations site wide. This is particularly significant given that there have been more than 300 deep excavations throughout the entire site, with some excavations as deep as 30-40 feet. The extensive work on the site further supports the comprehensive testing and historical use reports conducted by IUSD consultants and numerous federal, state and local agencies.
> The land was leased to farmers for agricultural purposes from the 1950s through 2013. For many of those years, the site was used for organic farming. In addition, to the north of the site, was extensive military housing, in which families lived and children were raised for decades.
> Under the California Department of Education (CDE) and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) oversight and in accordance with stringent California law, IUSD’s consultants have conducted more than 200 tests throughout the school site. Based on the results of the tests, the DTSC documented no threat to public health or the environment. Subsequently, in April 2014, both CDE and DTSC gave IUSD final approvals to build Portola High School. The requirements IUSD followed to ensure the safety of the school site are more rigorous than those required for residential developments.
www.iusd.org/district_services/facilities_planning_ and_construction/documents/ PHS-FactCheck021.pdf n