Portola High School Update

Dear IUSD Community,

As part of the District’s commitment to providing you with ongoing information about the Portola High School site, the following is an update on the status of recent confirmation soil sampling.

On March 22, the District held a special Board Meeting to present information about the school site and to receive public comments about the California Department of Toxic Substances Control’s (DTSC) plan for additional soil sampling of the site.  This was the 17th public meeting, since 2013, in which the Portola High School site has been discussed.  During the meeting, DTSC and District staff informed attendees that 10 locations throughout the site had been identified to conduct confirmation soil samplings that were intended to reaffirm the state agency’s initial approvals of the site.  DTSC Geologist Dan Gallagher stated, “In my professional opinion, 10 samples at two depths…should be sufficient to clear this site.” However, upon hearing public input, the Board of Education requested DTSC identify additional locations beyond the initial 10.

In the weeks following the meeting, DTSC Division Chief Dot Lofstrom and DTSC Geologist Gallagher, under DTSC Director Barbara Lee’s oversight, have worked in collaboration with IUSD to identify seven more soil sample locations, beyond the initial 10, for a total of 17 locations.  This is in addition to the 27 soil gas locations with 136 tests and the 68 soil sample locations with 105 tests that had been previously conducted throughout the school site.  Overall, the site will now have 112 test locations with more than 300 tests conducted site-wide.  As acknowledged by Chief Lofstrom during the March 22 meeting, the Portola High School site has had more scrutiny and testing than any other site on the former El Toro Marine Base, because DTSC “tends to be particularly protective of schools.”

The independent confirmation sampling process is being conducted under the oversight of DTSC, including Chief Lofstrom and Geologist Gallagher.  The process has included the following organizations and steps:

  • Drilling and setting of the soil gas probes is being conducted by Interphase Environmental, Inc.
  • An onsite California professional registered geologist with PlaceWorks (IUSD consultant), inspects the soil and collects the soil samples.
  • Jones Environmental, Inc. conducts the onsite analysis of soil gas samples in mobile laboratories.
  • Soil samples are sent to A&R Laboratories to test for the presence and levels of petroleum hydrocarbons.

In collaboration with DTSC, District consultant PlaceWorks, will develop the final report.  Upon completion of the report in mid-to-late May, IUSD will make this information available to the public and all interested parties, including the raw data.

I look forward to communicating with you next month to share the test results and next steps, if any.

For more information about the Portola High School site, including a comprehensive site history and District communications, please visit iusd.org/portolaconstruction.  See the following links for recent IUSD communications about the school site.

Thank you for your support and engagement, which helps IUSD better serve our students.




Terry L. Walker
Superintendent of Schools, Irvine Unified School District