In what's sure to inspire a few jokes from conservative radio hosts, a new school in Los Angeles named in honor of environmentalists Rachel Carson and Al Gore has been constructed on ground with high levels of toxic chemicals.
The $75.5 million Carson-Gore Academy of Environmental Sciences has spent some $4 million cleaning up the surrounding soil and bringing in clean, uncontaminated fill. According to the LA Times, workers removed dirt from two 3,800-square-foot plots to a depth of 45 feet, space enough to hold a four-story building. The soil once housed more than a dozen underground storage tanks serving light industrial businesses.
"There's no doubt in my mind that the site is safe, and if there are any changes, our monitoring or our existing processes will detect it and we'll react to that," John Sterritt, the school system's chief safety officer said. "We really go out of our way to make sure these properties are safe."
Others, especially some environmental groups, aren't so sure. "Renaming this terribly contaminated school after famous environmental advocates is an affront to the great work that these individuals have done to protect the public's health from harm," said one green organization in a letter to the district.
In an ironic twist, the "green" school has a most unlikely neighbor across the street: an operating oil well.
Officials say that they will check vapor monitors and groundwater wells to make sure any toxic residuals remain at safe levels. A 45-foot deep barrier will also be constructed to prevent any leakage from a nearby gas station.
According to The Times story, neither Gore nor representatives for Rachel Carson were notified before the school was named in their honor. Nevertheless, officials intend to invite the former vice president and members of Carson's family to the school's October ribbon-cutting.