Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Jack Sadler
Special to the Observer 

SMMUSD Outlines Water Sustainability Progress at Meeting

 

December 15, 2014



In light of a statewide drought and environmental concerns, the SMMUSD Board of Education discussed the progress of district-wide water conservation measures and outlined ideas for the future. Despite admittedly flawed data, members of the district’s Business Service staff explained the serious improvements and overhauls that have been taking place at district schools as a result of Measure BB funding. These include everything from small changes in irrigation, to large-scale innovative technology like “Green Roofs”.

Stuart Sam, Director of Facility Improvements explained that synthetic turf fields have had a positive impact on water consumption. Both Edison and Samohi were outfitted with new fields as a result of the local bond, Measure BB. The bond, passed by taxpayers, gives SMMUSD Schools large amounts of money for building and improvement.

“We’ve applied probably the most successful of our [synthetic] fields at Samohi, where the reduction of the water has really been significant.” Sam said.

However, some Board Members voiced concerns over the safety of Synthetic Turf fields. In October, NBC News reported on an apparent correlation between cancer and students who frequently exercise on turf fields. This correlation, advocates say, is due to the possible toxicity of small “crumb rubber” pieces that are part of many synthetic fields. Although their has been little research to indicate a conclusion either way, Board member Oscar de la Torre asked the district’s staff to assess the safety of the fields and report to the back to the Board.

“The way we’re saving water is important but there could be some negative consequences [that could] endanger children’s health” de la Torre said.

District staff members promised more research in response to de la Torre’s statement, but stated that the type of crumb rubber used at local schools is of the less problematic variety.

Other than synthetic fields, the district has also has begun utilizing new irrigation systems, recycled water and at Edison, “green roofs”. “Green Roofs” are roofs covered with vegetation in order to supply insulation and collect rainfall.

Although data has been collected on water usage for the last three years, district staff members were reluctant to call it sufficient. The data shows an approximately 5% increase in water consumption over the last three years. However, schools like Edison and Malibu experienced significant drop-offs.

“It’s hard to know what [this data] means. “ a SMMUSD staff member told the board.

In the future, the district staff told the board they are committed to engaging the local students about the progress they aim to make through events like Earth Day and Green Apple Day. Board Member Maria Leon-Vazquez was enthusiastic about the participation of students.

“We need to make sure we get our students on board because they are the ones that will be practicing conservation.” Leon-Vazquez said.

 

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