Asbestos violations issued at Mira Costa
by Mark McDermott
The new school year got off to an unnerving start last week at Mira Costa High School when the South Coast Air Quality Management District issued violation notices to the Manhattan Beach Unified School District and two contractors for the illegal removal, handling, and disposal of asbestos found in the school library.
The violations stem from a complaint received by SCAQMD on Aug. 16, which alleged that asbestos-containing floor material was being disturbed in a textbook storage room, located within the library, while students, parents, and staff were present for school registration. Inspectors responded the same day and found that workers had used a power grinder on the floor and had indeed disturbed asbestos.
School officials immediately cordoned off both the library and three adjacent classrooms and hired an environmental firm to assess and remediate the problem. The following day, Superintendent Mike Matthews sent an email to parents in which he explained that the project had simply intended to convert a storage room into a more functional workroom, and was done with knowledge that the decades-old floor tiling contained asbestos.
“Installing the carpet was a preventative measure intended to protect the tile from damage to avoid potential asbestos exposure,” Matthews wrote. “Unfortunately, during the process of this work, the contractor damaged the tile. Employees notified site and district administrators that they were concerned about the contractor’s work, and the library was shut down while an investigation took place.”
Dale emailed parents the same day to assure them that the contamination had been limited to the library workroom but that the nearby rooms had also been closed off in as a precaution.
“ Just to be safe, we asked our consultants to conduct precautionary cleaning in all three rooms last night,” Dale wrote. “Again, there are no test results that indicate that this is necessary, but we wanted to leave no room for any doubt that these spaces are safe for occupancy.”
On Aug. 22, the same day the school year began at Mira Costa, MBUSD, the general contractors, KYA Group, and flooring contractor Progressive Surface Solutions were issued 27 violations each of both SCAQMD and federal asbestos regulations. Ninth graders began the school year without access to their textbooks, which had been in the storage area.
Two days later, Dale announced that the classrooms had been reopened. The library has yet to reopen.
“SCAQMD’s prompt actions have helped to minimize the potential public health threat from exposure to asbestos,” said Wayne Nastri, SCAQMD’s executive officer. “Since asbestos can pose a serious health risk if not properly handled, we work to ensure that all asbestos procedures in our region comply with our strict regulations.”
Matthews acknowledged the incident had been unsettling but said that the district had taken every step since the asbestos disturbance to ensure student safety.
“The health and safety of all our Manhattan Beach Unified students, faculty, and staff is our highest priority and unwavering commitment,” Matthews said. “…The cooperation and understanding of our community are greatly appreciated. We recognize that this process has been disruptive and difficult for everyone involved.”