September 12, 2010 - Students at a new green themed school named for noted conservationists Rachel Carson and Al Gore don't have to go far for a lesson in environmental contamination: Their $75 million campus was laden with toxic soil.
Los Angeles Unified district officials have spent $4 million to clean up the site of the new Carson-Gore Academy of Environmental Studies, which is set to open Monday.
The three-acre site, located in a low-income neighborhood west of downtown LA, was contaminated with carcinogenic solvents that leaked from 17 underground storage tanks discovered during construction. The land had been previously used by light industrial businesses.
The school district said the school has been cleared by state toxic control authorities and is ready to receive its 675 elementary students, whose curriculum will be sprinkled with environmental themes.
But a coalition of environmental groups argues the district is not going far enough to prevent possible soil vapor intrusion into classrooms from an outside source of contamination. The site is bordered by a gas station and an oil well.
Testing at the site indicated that contamination was coming from a source other than the storage tanks onsite, said Jane Williams, executive director of California Communities Against Toxics, who has been monitoring the issue. That pollution could affect the groundwater, which could send vapors into the building.