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Nonprofit discusses cleanup at MHS

Ashleigh Fryer, Senior Editor
6:18 pm PDT May 9, 2014

Malibu Unites, a Malibu based nonprofit focusing on the heath of Malibu’s public schools, hosted a town hall meeting at Duke’s Malibu on Thursday, May 1, to discuss the ongoing situation regarding PCBs at Malibu High School.

The meeting introduced a board of experts who each shared their experiences dealing with PCBs, pesticides and toxicants, and were available to address questions from the crowd of a few dozen. 

Experts included Penny Newman, executive director for the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, Christina Georgio, staff attorney for New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Nauchman Brautbar, an MD certified in internal medicine, nephrology and forensic medicine with a specialization in medical toxicology and Kurt Fehling, the Malibu Unites independent expert team leader.

“Having your own experts is critical,” Newman said. “It keeps people honest.”

Newman was the PTA president of Stringfellow Elementary School when she and other teachers, staff and parents at the school found out about the ongoing contamination of the school and surrounding neighborhood from the nearby Stringfellow acid pits. Through her work, she eventually got Stringfellow listed as one of California’s top priority superfund sites for cleanup. 

“When I found out about the decisions that were being made about my children without my input, I was furious,” she said. “We not only have the right to know, we have the responsibility to know.”

Newman applauded Jennifer DeNicola, president and founder of Malibu Unites, and the rest of the organization’s team and supporters, in their efforts to involve themselves in the process of discovery and cleanup of PCBs and toxicants recently found on the Malibu High School and Juan Cabrillo Elementary School campuses. The group hopes to work with the EPA, Department of Toxic Substances Control, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and the District’s environmental consulting firm for the cleanup project, Environ, to make the process transparent, according to DeNicola. 

“At times you have to challenge [the DTSC], but when they’re doing the right thing you have to applaud them,” Newman said. 

Georgio, who has spent most of her career working to correct the problem of pollutants in New York City public schools, said methods that would never be considered in New York, due to the sheer size of the District, can more easily be implemented in a community like Malibu.

“I’m the monitor with regard to what New York City is doing to remediate their schools,” Georgio said. “New York is still figuring it out — it does not know what it’s doing. It seems to me that starting over should be a considered option [in Malibu].”

Fehling spoke about his experiences conducting human health risk assessments for occupational and residential populations exposed to contaminants, citing Environ’s plan for remediation at the  MHS campus, “wholly inadequate.”

“We need to prompt them to look at a more holistic approach [to cleanup],” Fehling said.

For more information on Malibu Unites, or to donate to the nonprofit, visit www.malibuunites.com