East Whittier Middle School reopened this week after four days of around-the-clock scrubbing by a professional toxic waste disposal company. The firm was called in to rid the campus of poisonous residue left after school employees fumigated the campus with undiluted pesticide.
County Health Department officials opened the campus Sunday night after tests showed "insignificant" amounts of the pesticide Dursban and the chemical DDVP, said Jose Ochoa, senior industrial hygienist. The Health Department and the Agricultural Commissioner's Department made 147 tests before deciding the campus was safe, he said.
Classes resumed Tuesday. Teachers spent Monday reorganizing their classrooms, said Dorothy Fagan, assistant superintendent for personnel for the East Whittier City School District.
Meantime, officials from the county Agricultural Commissioner's Department said the school district will be cited for the incident. Five violations, each carrying a maximum possible penalty of $500, are under investigation, said Cato Fiksdal, supervising inspector. They are failure to dilute the pesticide, spraying lockers with a pesticide intended for spot use only, leaving used pesticide containers in a dumpster instead of taking them to a toxic dump, failure to rinse pesticide containers, and failure to provide proper respiratory equipment for the workers who sprayed the school.
The agricultural commissioner may cite the district directly, Fiksdal said, or these findings and a report from the Health Department may be turned over to the district attorney's office for prosecution.