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Fight Grows Against Toxic Schools

Negligent Construction in Bassett District, Toxic Pollution Across LAUSD

Personal Injury attorney Roger Gordon recently filed suit on behalf of 17 teachers and students against the Bassett Unified School District, as well as the architect, contractors and inspectors.

A simple - almost laughable - mistake was made when the Edgewood Academy was built in 2000: No one connected the toilets in Building L to the sewer line. The oversight went undetected for six years.

Meanwhile, human waste building up under the portable classroom has produced horrible odors, contaminated the soil, water and air, created a cockroach infestation, and caused the building itself to decompose and emit toxic chemicals into the air.

The consequences have been devastating. The Edgewood plaintiffs' medical complaints range from diarrhea and cramps to miscarriages and children with birth defects.

News reports focus daily on efforts to stem gang and racial violence in public schools, but the media has been nearly silent about another killer on campus: Toxic contamination.

Gordon and the law firm's Workers' Compensation attorneys are working with teachers' unions and community organizations at schools across Los Angeles County. The firm is handling Workers' Comp cases for employees' on-the-job injuries and P.I. cases against the polluters.

In Carson, Los Angeles attorney David Goldstein suspects a truck-cleaning company next to Del Amo Elementary is the source of teachers' muscle spasms, numbness, blurred vision, difficulty sleeping, drifting mental focus, blurry vision, frequent sore throats and coughing, stomach cramps, nausea and fatigue.

Noxious smells routinely waft from Rainbow Transport Tank Cleaners across a fence over the school's playground. Rainbow removes hazardous wastes from customers' trucks and uses powerful solvents to clean tanks. The state Department of Toxic Substances Control has ordered it to clean up contaminated soil to about 20 feet and groundwater below 20 feet.

Under Workers' Comp, limited benefits are paid if an employee can prove they were injured at work, regardless of fault. Benefits can include medical care for injuries, including treatment that may become necessary later.

Personal Injury attorney Vincent Vallin Bennett has filed lawsuits on behalf of five babies born to teachers at Gulf Avenue Elementary in Wilmington. All were born with rare cardiovascular defects.

"One has had a heart transplant, and all have required surgery," said Jeanne Contreras, who chairs the United Teachers Los Angeles chapter at Gulf Avenue.

Teachers suspected the birth defects were linked to the vast network of petrochemical plants and pipelines crisscrossing the Harbor area. But Bennett identified the source of the problem as something that could affect any school: pesticides, herbicides and rat poisons.

Gordon and Bennett are also representing dozens of teachers, students and neighbors of 28th Street Elementary. The law firm coordinates legal action against Palace Plating, a metal-plating factory across the street, with UTLA leaders and ACORN Vice President Marta Sanchez, whose two children attend the central L.A. school.

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