By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
(State law does define crude oil wastes as "nonhazardous," but Senator Hayden chalks this up to exemptions lobbied for by the oil industry. And environmental consultant Bellomo noted that being blown up by methane is just as valid a concern as inhaling benzene.)
Shambra’s development unit was disbanded when he retired a year ago, and the school district claims to be reformed. All school sites will now go through a review process overseen by the state toxics department. The bureaucracy has yet to yield to Tokofsky’s call for an inspector general, though it has strengthened some internal audit processes.
In the meantime, the district will have to be content with stanching Belmont’s hemorrhaging budget. A methane barrier under the buildings may suffice, but the experts say the district is now obligated to perform a pricey study first. This review will cost $700,000, much more than it would have if conducted earlier.
The school system already has been stuck with a $400,000 tab for hauling away contaminated soil.
It’s hard to say how the actual fix will cost out. One consultant guessed a range of $2 million to $10 million.
But that’s not the only expense. The district has gone a long way toward giving Kajima, the developer, a blank check to run up its tab. Already, Kajima has filed notice that it may charge the school system $3.4 million for environmental-related delays to date. Desperate to stay on schedule, district project managers have allowed contractors to keep building upward — since those areas are already covered — but not outward, pending soil tests. Kajima claims that every day of delay costs $10,000. District officials are now concerned that Kajima will use the environmental difficulties as a pretext for shifting its own cost overruns to the school system. Normally, Cartwright would take the district’s part in jousting with Kajima, but he’s been temporarily removed from the project by L.A. Unified General Counsel Richard K. Mason. And Cartwright’s law firm has asked him to refrain from all comment on Belmont.
No one is touting the guaranteed maximum price these days.
In fact, no one is guaranteeing anything.
"Maybe nothing needs to be done, maybe they have to spend a lot of money, maybe they need to tear down those buildings," said Saebfar of the toxics department. "Nobody knows."
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