Local Colleges and High Schools Net Treasure Trove of SCE-Donated Chemical Lab Equipment

The in-kind donations will help local students and benefit school science departments.

March 13, 2014 | By Susan Cox

It wasn’t rocket science.

When Jeff Bonino-Britsch from Verbum Dei High School got a call asking if he’d be interested in receiving in-kind donations — equipment from Southern California Edison (SCE)’s chemical lab facility in Westminster, which was closing — he didn’t hesitate.  

“I went to our Science Department to see if they could use any of it and they jumped on it,” he said. “They were thrilled.”

School representatives recently went to the lab where they collected materials valued at more than $10,000 that would benefit Verbum Dei’s Science Department. They were joined by 15 local community colleges, Cal State Universities and a research lab for a daylong giveaway of badly needed equipment such as beakers, oil and grease bottles, and glass tubes.

“We’re very excited about the gift and it’s going to do a lot of great need for our department,” said Selina Chi, dean of the Resource and Institutional Development and executive director of the East Los Angeles College Foundation

The in-kind donations resulted from the closing of SCE’s Power Production Chemical Laboratory, which has supported power plant chemistry operations at the utility’s generation sites for decades, including the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and the Mountainview Power Plant in Redlands. With the San Onofre nuclear plant retired, the lab facility’s assets are no longer being used and were offered to local community schools, many hard hit by budget cuts in recent years.

“This was a rare and unique opportunity,” said Steve Wellington, SCE Chemical Service manager at the lab facility. “Because of budget cuts in schools, these are much needed assets for schools’ science programs. I was happy that my vice president agreed it would be appropriate to donate these specialty items to the community so there would be some legacy and goodwill of SCE helping our next generation of scientists and Edison employees.”

Employees at the lab facility spent weeks sorting through the vast collection of equipment and labeling items, some dating back more than 20 years.

And like shoppers on Black Friday, participants scooped up a treasure trove of goodies.

Up for grabs were laboratory glassware (burets, flasks and pipets), Mason jars, graduated cylinders, paper filters and accessories and variable-size Teflon caps. Additional offerings included distillation tubes, various sizes of glass and tube connections, disposable and glass beakers, glass tubes, rubber corks, flow meters, and atomic absorption flame and graphite furnace analyzers, which test for metal in water.

The day was a win-win for the recipients. 

“We’re very excited about the gifts. It’s a big, big game changer for us,” said Chi.

Allen Leung, chemistry professor at Rio Hondo College, said the equipment will be used to enhance hands-on laboratory experiences for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students, a majority of which are underrepresented in the STEM fields.

Edison International, parent company of SCE, reached out to community colleges in Los Angeles and Orange counties where schools have struggled financially for years.

“They’re the ones most in need,” said Yvette Gonzalez, program manager for SCE’s Philanthropy & Community Investment. More high level lab instruments and equipment were directed to the Cal State Universities and a research institution.  

“We couldn’t have picked this up if we wanted to,” said Bonino-Britsch of SCE’s in-kind donations. “If it weren’t for you guys, we wouldn’t get it. Thank you for taking good care of us.”

By day’s end, boxes were bulging with materials and loaded into stuffed vehicles for transport to various schools.

“We leave at 2 p.m. and there were still people lingering around at 4 p.m.,” said Wellington. “We stayed around because we wanted people to get what they wanted. They appeared to be very humble and thankful for getting these gifts, and we were excited that we were able to do this.” 

Topics: People