Avalon School dig site

Contaminated soil under a school. Who has to pay for remediation?

In this legal case, the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) is suing the Santa Catalina Island Company and the City of Avalon, referred to collectively as “Defendants.” LBUSD wants to get money back for dealing with polluted soil at the Avalon K-12 School located in Avalon on Catalina Island. The school’s grounds have dangerous substances like lead, arsenic, dioxins/furans, and PAH, which interfere with the school children’s ability to use and enjoy the land properly.

LBUSD says the Defendants are to blame because they either did or let stuff happen on the land that made it dirty before the school was even built in 1924. LBUSD states this includes a garbage dump where trash was burned, a gas-making plant, and a mini-golf course that used harmful pesticides.

Conversely, the Defendants argue that they didn’t make the land dirty. Instead, they claim LBUSD is at fault because the district used a garbage burner on-site, lead paint, brought in dirty soil, and used harmful pesticides themselves.

In August 2021, the court decided partly in favor of the Defendants, throwing out most of LBUSD’s complaints except for one about the private nuisance. The accusations and defenses about who made the land dirty and who should pay for it are still up in the air, waiting for the court to decide.