DTSC Oversees Environmental Cleanup at 172 Schools
It seems incredible now. As recently as 2000, many children attending a new school in California could not be guaranteed an education facility free of hazardous waste. Now, more than 500,000 school children and faculty members can rest assured they are learning and working in safe environments.
Because schools need large parcels of land, districts often buy abandoned industrial sites. In doing so, districts often purchase contamination from years of industrial use on the property.
In January 2000, two new school facilities laws addressing environmental safety matters came into effect. AB 387 (Chapter 992, Statutes of 1999) and SB 162 (Chapter 1002, Statutes of 1999) require DTSC to be involved in the environmental review process for the proposed acquisition and/or construction of school properties using state funding. The implementation of these laws marked the beginning of the DTSC Schools Program. For more than 10 years the program has helped increase the number of environmentally safe schools and available classrooms, therefore protecting children and educators from exposure to hazardous substances.
The DTSC Schools Program has set a national standard for school-site environmental reviews that provide children with a quality education on an environmentally safe campus.
“Assuring that children and faculty have a safe place to learn and play is one of the most rewarding aspects of DTSC’s role in working with school districts,” said Thomas Cota, DTSC Manager for Schools Evaluation and Brownfields Outreach Office. “The program ensures that California school sites are properly cared for and clean of harmful chemicals.”
DTSC’s environmental overview process has helped school districts become more selective in evaluating potential school properties. At the same time, it has addressed concerns raised by parents, teachers, residents and public officials about school properties that may be contaminated.
Hamid Saebfar, who helped create the program for DTSC says, “Working with school districts posed new challenges to the traditional environment review process. School districts were unfamiliar with DTSC’s environmental review process and had very demanding construction schedules.”
“To address this challenge,” adds Saebfar, “DTSC required a paradigm shift, a shared vision and partnership”
The DTSC Schools Program developed policies, guidance documents and advisories that streamlined investigations and cleanups for greater efficiency and transparency.
More than a decade after its creation, DTSC’s Schools Program continues to play a vital role in providing safe and healthy places for children and faculty by assuring environmentally safe schools in California.
Highlights of DTSC Schools Program achievements include: