Trustees of the Ocean View School District announced a settlement agreement Tuesday night with Rainbow Environmental Services, marking the end of three years of litigation against the waste disposal company.
Ocean View sued Rainbow in 2013, alleging that dust and chemicals from the company's waste transfer station in Huntington Beach were making students at neighboring schools sick.
Oak View Elementary School and Oak View Preschool are directly across the street from the transfer station, located at 17121 Nichols Lane. The facility is used to process trash collected from homes and businesses.
On Wednesday afternoon, the district held a news conference on the front lawn of Oak View Elementary with school board President Gina Clayton-Tarvin and Dave Hauser, market vice president for Republic Services, which bought Rainbow in October 2014.
Clayton-Tarvin shared details of the settlement with more than 50 educators, students, neighborhood residents and other community members.
Under the agreement, Rainbow will spend $18 million to fully enclose the trash facility and install a ventilation and filtration system to help reduce noise and odors.
Rainbow also will provide the district with $4 million for a gymnasium at Oak View Elementary and trees along Nichols Lane to create a barrier between the school and the transfer station.
"This was a victory for the entire community," Clayton-Tarvin said.
She said construction of the enclosure could start as early as next month and be completed by December 2017.
The bidding process for the new gym will begin this month, she said.
"This is important because it cleans the slate. ... It cleared the air and started to rebuild trust with the community," Hauser told the Daily Pilot. "And the enclosure and the other things will be great for the community."
The school district and area residents have been calling for the enclosure for years. Oak View students some days couldn't go outside for PE or lunch because of strong odors and poor air quality, according to educators and parents. Sea gulls often would drop items on the campus that they had picked up from the trash site.
Oscar Rodriguez, a member of the neighborhood advocacy group Oak View Comunidad, called the settlement refreshing news.
"It's a reminder that when people get together — elected officials and community members —we can rise and get things accomplished," Rodriguez said.