I sent the following letter on April 25th:

To the IUSD Board and Superintendent:

The March 2nd letter from CalEPA Secretary Rodriquez and DTSC Director Lee, specifies:

“The proposed [soil-gas] sampling activities should be discussed with DTSC, the public and other interested stakeholders, prior to the formal submittal of the work plan to the Department.”

This has not been the case, and IUSD has not been acting in good faith.  In order to obtain the latest sampling work plan, entitled Confirmation Sampling Workplan” [click to display] a title that continues your insistent misinformation campaign since there is nothing to confirm, I made a California Public Records Act Request, something I’ve had to resort to several times in the past, and received it on April 22nd.

On page 2 of the “Confirmation Sampling Workplan,” appears:
“DTSC Comments
“Pursuant to DTSC’s letter of March 2nd, any sampling location that has detectable VOC concentrations should be sampled again to evaluate temporal variability of the contaminant concentrations.  This second round of sampling, if needed, should occur approximately three weeks after the original sampling.

“The District would like to comply with this request however we did not see in the March 2nd letter the request to sample three weeks after the original.  Additionally the 2015 Soil Gas Advisory does not indicate a three week time period for resampling.  The three week schedule has serious repercussions on the scheduled completion of the high school and will impact
[The list of sample locations and their impacts on construction follows, concluding with the following unsettling statement:]  
“Subcontractors have been scheduled to complete this work to meet the deadline to open the school for move in of staff in June 2016.  If the schedule is revised the subcontractors may not be able to complete the work prior to the opening of the school. The DTSC indicated that they did not want to impede the opening of the school but requiring the resampling of the probes with a 3 week delay will impede the opening of the school.” [emphasis added]

This is an unacceptable treatment of the situation.  As it is, Placeworks and the DTSC, other than Senior Geologist Dan Gallagher and Director Lee, have lost all credibility with the public regarding their intention to ensure a safe Portola High School.  These statements by Placeworks are further “confirmation” that by “hook or crook” they will find a way to continue to thwart the March 2nd letter.

The reality is that if any VOCs are detected, at whatever concentration, even if they are below a so-called screening level, that represents just the beginning of the testing that is required, not the end.  More testing is then required to find the source, as required by not only the March 2nd letter, but by good sense.

I truly don’t understand how you can expect that this ongoing game of hide-and-seek will have a good outcome, other than a more determined public, outraged by the continuing bad behavior of Placeworks.

I strongly urge you to give up on your plan to open PHS in August.  Instead, hire an independent environmental firm that can truly do whatever is necessary to ensure that either the site is safe, or that it can be reasonably remediated.  The current process will never be accepted by the public.

I just happened to run across an article entitled, “Dirty Secrets Under the Schoolyard” in the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of “The Environmental Magazine.”  The following, extracted from that article, seems to apply to the current situation:

“Not surprisingly, school projects can trigger pyrotechnic emotions when parents believe that officials have compromised their children’s health. Sometimes, their outrage outweighs science, creating a hostile atmosphere in which it’s impossible for school officials to rebuild the community’s trust in their intentions. This was the case in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia.”

Will this be the case in Irvine?


Harvey H. Liss, Ph.D., P.E.
Executive Director


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