Oakland – Today, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) announced a precautionary closure of McClymonds High School after tests revealed that a cancer-causing chemical called trichloroethylene (TCE) was found in the onsite groundwater. OUSD Board Director Jumoke Hinton Hodge contacted me to let me know that teachers and students were notified of the temporary closure on Wednesday night.
In response to this information, I immediately notified Oakland Fire Chief Darin White, Assemblymember Rob Bonta and County Supervisor Keith Carson to ensure coordination so that we can provide accurate information to the surrounding community that may also be impacted by the groundwater contamination. I also reached out to West Oakland faith leaders who have volunteered to make their churches available for temporary classrooms should OUSD determine that the space is needed to resume classes next week.
West Oakland has long been victim to environmental racism that concentrated toxic industries in this historic Black community. I will remain vigilant in monitoring the State and County response to ensure that the McClymonds community and surrounding neighborhoods are protected. I am calling for the State of California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) to conduct additional testing in the surrounding neighborhoods and to immediately implement a plan of mitigation and remediation.
According to OUSD, the district had removed a fuel tank that was previously used to heat the school’s swimming pool. When the District completed additional testing of the soil and groundwater to determine there had been no petroleum seepage, inspectors found traces of TCE at levels that indicate a need for further tests to determine if the compound has also contaminated the air. The Alameda County Environmental Health Department (ACEHD) is conducting additional tests at the school property to determine what levels of the TCE are present and if the contaminant is airborne and constitutes a risk to the students. Until the ACEHD determines the level of risk to students and educators has been established, the Oakland Unified School District closed the high school until further notice. Testing will continue through the weekend.
ACEHD noted that the contamination did not originate at McClymonds. It appears that the source is a former industrial site a few blocks from the school which could mean that nearby homes and businesses may be affected. We will update our constituents as we learn more.