The construction of the Portola High School on a now-known contaminated site continues unabated.
Even after a large cache of odorous soil, contaminated by toxic petrochemicals was discovered on the school site in November of 2014, the Irvine Unified School District’s (IUSD) policy has been to remove contaminated soil when they accidentally find it as construction proceeds, but, to not otherwise test the entire site.
However, during a recent phone conversation with a high official in the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) in Sacramento, the “widespread public anxiety” reported in ICNV’s December issue seemingly had a positive impact. The official said that the information will be “passed forward.” The article and a copy of the newspaper had been sent to the official prior to the phone conversation.
It also appeared from the conversation that no analysis had yet been done by the DTSC of the extensive materials sent to them that would contradict the basis for their previous acceptance of the school site as purely agricultural, a status that required no comprehensive testing for the toxic petrochemicals already discovered on the site.
The possibility of the DTSC holding a public hearing, locally, was also raised in the conversation. Again, the words of the official were, “I will pass that information forward.”
Probably no one reading this was aware of the first “fake” public hearing, held on February 18, 2014, and run by IUSD, at which their Preliminary Environmental Assessment (PEA) was presented. Notice of that “hearing” was buried in the rarely read Public Notices sections of the Irvine World News and the OC Register. The “announcement” also appeared on the IUSD website under Business Services/Facilities Planning and Construction section. This critical public hearing, held at the February 18, 2015 Board meeting was, in fact, Item “24. a. Public Hearing: Preliminary Environmental Assessment (PEA) for High School #5 (Site A) — one of 27 agenda items! The IUSD agenda was posted on the IUSD website just four days earlier.
If the DTSC holds a public hearing, it will provide the IUSD an opportunity to explain their reasons for not testing the site for the toxic petrochemicals found along almost the entire perimeter.
ICNV will continue to monitor this important story.