O.C. REGISTER: State Agency says Portola High School Site Safe

By Sarah de Crescenzo

IRVINE – A state agency that in March ordered additional soil and soil gas testing at the site of Irvine Unified School District’s future Portola High School has determined the site poses no risk to those who will study or work there.

A report issued this week by the Department of Toxic Substances Control said the tests – prompted by community concerns over stained soil discovered at the site, once part of the former El Toro Marine base – revealed traces of chemicals at levels “well below” those that could cause harm.

The campus, which stretches about 40 acres at the northeast side of the Orange County Great Park, will eventually enroll as many as 2,600 students in grades 9 through 12. The Portola High freshman class – about 400 students are expected to enroll – is slated to kick off its first year Aug. 24.

“We’re happy there’s a conclusion to the report and hopefully that will put to rest any kind of concern that a few of our community members might have had,” John Pehrson, principal of Portola High, said on Friday.

Pehrson, who was previously principal at University High School, said the testing hasn’t affected preparations for the opening of the school, the district’s fifth comprehensive high school.

“To be quite honest, what’s been going on in the site along these lines hasn’t caused us to lose any focus,” he said. “We haven’t received a whole lot of concern from our parent constituents here.”

The report, finalized Tuesday and shared online by Irvine Unified late Thursday, summarizes the latest round of testing done of the soil and soil gas – the air in the spaces between soil – at the site. In total, 109 new samples were taken, at depths of up to 15 feet, the report states.

No petroleum hydrocarbons were detected in the soil samples. Low levels of volatile organic compounds were detected in the soil gas samples. The concentrations in which the compounds were found were similar to the levels found in previous testing done at the site, according to the report.

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