OAKLAND (KPIX) — Emotions were raw Thursday night among parents demanding answers to questions surrounding toxic groundwater found under McClymonds High School in Oakland.
Many parents were angry over the lack of information and short notice that the school would be abruptly canceled the rest of the week and possibly into next week. This came after a cancer-causing chemical known as TCE was found in the groundwater. The district says they received results last Friday.
“We know that there is TCE in the groundwater. It is not in the drinking water and we don’t know if it’s in the air. That’s why we’re testing,” said Joshua Daniels, counsel with Oakland Unified School District.
The presence of TCE was first discovered when the school was removing an underground petroleum tank outside the gymnasium last fall.
“I made the decision out of an over-abundance of caution, given that we do not know the results of the testing at this time,” said superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell. “But any potential hazard meant that I did not feel safe having our students and our staff still at the facility.”
Testing is expected to be done over the weekend and results could be ready next week. Vapors from polluted soil and groundwater can move into buildings and contaminate the indoor air.
“The fact that the concentrations were found just above the level that requires us to go into indoor air testing does not mean there is a vapor intrusion risk. It means further investigation is warranted and that’s what we’re doing,” said Dilan Roe with the Alameda County Department of Environmental Health.
Angela Jones is a junior at McClymonds High. “I’m feeling shocked, ashamed and disappointed,” Jones said.
Her mother, Monique Brown, said generations in her family have attended the school.
“I did not receive enough information. I don’t feel comfortable having my daughter return to McClymonds High School,” said Brown. “I didn’t feel confident in the answers that we were given and I feel like there’s a lot more that we need to know as parents. A robo call won’t work.”
Kim Ard-Elutilo has lived directly across the school for years.
“It does make me question not only my health but the health of the community. People period, that’s in our area. Just the fact that we live around all these factories,” she said.
There will be two informational meetings on Monday for updates on the closure at West Oakland Middle School Library.