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VALLEY ROUNDUP | Sun Valley

Tests for Toxics Ordered for High School Near Dump

July 28, 1999|KRISTINA SAUERWEIN

As a precautionary measure, the Los Angeles Unified School District has ordered environmental tests this weekend at Francis Polytechnic High School to determine if potentially toxic gases from a nearby landfill pose a risk to students and staff.

While school and environmental officials cautioned that there's no imminent danger at the year-round high school, they want to make certain volatile organic compounds such as benzene are not migrating into the school.

No specific incident caused safety concerns, officials said. Polytechnic is one of 10 schools that district officials last June reported to its school safety team as needing monitoring or special equipment, and tests are a part of that effort.

The school, at 12431 Roscoe Blvd., has 20 methane detection probes working 24 hours a day that would warn staff if concentrations of the explosive gas get too high, said Angelo Bellomo, an environmental consultant on the district's safety team. No methane problems have been reported in at least six years.

"It is safe to indicate that methane has not been detected," Bellomo said. "What's significant is the potential of other gases, even in trace concentrations."

Such gases, caused by decomposing organic matter, are commonly found in landfills and should have been monitored regularly at the school, Bellomo and others said.

But environmental experts said there is probably no need for concern. "We prefer to err on the side of extreme conservatism," said Ron Baker, a spokesman for the state Department of Toxic Substances Control. "We're dealing with children, and they're more sensitive" to toxins.

The school district is working closely with agencies such as the state toxics control department and the city Bureau of Sanitation, which monitors methane levels at the school.

"The only thing that's serious is that we don't know the answers," said Caprice Young, the newly-elected school board member whose area includes Polytechnic.

Test results will be presented at 7 p.m. Tuesday during a community meeting at Polytechnic High School.

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