Portola High School Affirmed Safe by Top State Environmental Agency

Dear IUSD Community,

I am pleased to inform you that the Portola High School site has been affirmed safe by the California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC).  Today, DTSC provided the District with the environmental site approval, also known as a “No Further Action” notice.  This designation affirms the site is environmentally safe for students, families, staff and the community, and supports the 2014 and 2015 environmental site approvals previously granted by the DTSC.  To read the final report, click here.

During this third series of testing, 17 additional locations were selected throughout the school site by DTSC with more than 100 tests conducted at two depths of five and 15 feet, which is the industry standard.  To date, more than 300 tests have been conducted at more than 100 locations site-wide.  Below is a map with the comprehensive test locations and information.

IUSD expected the final report at the end of April; however, during a March 22 Special Board Meeting, after hearing feedback from the public, the Board of Education requested that DTSC identify additional test locations beyond the eight the state agency initially selected.  The additional locations expanded the timeframe and the time needed for DTSC to review the data and make its own independent determination.

As explained by DTSC Division Chief Dot Lofstrom during the March 22 Special Board Meeting, there are three potential “outcomes” of the confirmation soil sampling.  She explained that “Outcome Two” is the current status of the site and that if the testing supports this status, no further action will be required of IUSD.  Chief Lofstrom stated:

Outcome One

“One outcome is that all samples come back non-detect.  That means that no contaminants were discovered above the capabilities of our laboratory instruments to detect them.  In that case, the concerns described by me tonight would have been met by the District and no further action will be requested of the School District.”

Outcome Two

“A second outcome might be that contaminants are discovered but at very low concentrations.  So low as to constitute no health risk to occupants of the school.  That’s the current status of the site – our current conceptual model that there are very low concentrations of some contaminants – scattered areas underground.  These contaminants that do exist are sometimes as low as 600 times below the health concentrations, so I’m talking very low concentrations.

A few scattered concentrations of low level contaminants would confirm the current conceptual site model that there is no risk to future occupants of the school.  Very low levels of contaminants in the soil do not trigger cleanup requirements, because walking or running on a field, playing on the ground, or sitting inside rooms with concrete floors and walls do not result in any exposures that are a health concern.

In this case again, the concerns of DTSC would have been met and no further action will be requested of the School District.”

Outcome Three

“There is a third outcome, that is contaminants are present and at sufficiently high concentrations to have possible health impacts.  In that case, additional investigation will be required of the District.”

To view a video of Chief Lofstrom’s presentation during the March 22 public meeting, click here.

Chief Lofstrom and DTSC Geologist Dan Gallagher will join IUSD staff for a presentation to the Board of Education Tuesday, May 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the District Office.  The public is invited.  If you are unable to attend in person, you may view the meeting live on Cox channel 39 and AT&T U-verse channel 99.

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.

Portola High School Testing Update – May 11, 2016
Portola High School Update – April 29, 2016
IUSD Board Held 17th Public Meeting to Ensure Highest Standards for Portola High – March 25, 2016
Portola High School Meeting Reminder and Procedures – March 21, 2016
Portola High School Update and Public Meeting Notice – March 17, 2016
Portola High School Update from Terry Walker – March 4, 2016

Thank you for your support and engagement throughout this independent and rigorous process to ensure the Portola High School site is safe for our students, staff, families and community.  We look forward to welcoming the inaugural Portola High School freshman class this August and we share in the community’s excitement about this state-of-the-art educational facility that will be home to generations of Irvine students.


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