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Getting the facts straight about Lennar’s environmental violations

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A sign for The San Francisco Shipyard housing project by the Lennar Corporation stands at Innes Avenue and Donahue Street in the Hunter’s Point neighborhood of San Francisco Tuesday, October 4, 2016. (Dan Chambers/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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The San Francisco Examiner’s Nov. 13 article — “NAACP members question honorees linked to companies that allegedly impacted black communities” — has a very serious error that needs to be addressed. In that report, the Examiner reported the following:

“In 2008, Lennar was fined $515,000 by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District board after a dust cloud resulted from grading work, raising fears that asbestos was in the dust and could have made people sick. It was never confirmed that there was asbestos in the dust.”

This is completely incorrect.

Lennar was not fined for a “dust cloud.” Lennar was fined for failing to maintain legally required dust monitoring. Lennar failed to keep air monitors operating properly and regularly in order to screen for the amounts of asbestos fibers in dust that it has continuously generated, during many years of grading necessary for Lennar’s various projects. Furthermore, part of the reason Lennar was fined is that the grading dust it generated on several occasions exceeded asbestos exposure health and safety limits during the period over which the company was fined.

A fact of key importance is that Lennar is grading and building on land that geologically contains serpentine rock, which is broadly infused with natural asbestos.

Because of this, dust from all grading operations in that area continuously contains asbestos.

During the period in question, asbestos was measured in the few air monitors that were working, and many times at levels exceeding those allowed by federal, state and local regulators. But because most of Lennar’s air monitors were not properly monitored and maintained, it was not possible to determine how much exposure in excess of limits occurred.

It was for this array of negligent malfeasance and excessive exposures that Lennar was fined.

It is also important for Examiner readers to know that though regulators have established what they label as “safe” levels of asbestos exposure, it is well established by extensive peer-reviewed science that asbestos is so toxic and dangerous and that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos fibers.

Finally, there have been recent revelations that Tetra Tech, a contractor for the U.S. Navy overseeing the former navy base lands where Lennar’s Bayview projects are being built, has been caught purposely falsifying its monitoring of the cleanup of radioactive and toxic contamination at Lennar’s construction sites in order to cover up the extent of the contamination.

The public deserves to know the facts about the dangers of asbestos, radioactive contaminants and other toxic contaminants on these sites — and to be fully informed of Lennar’s and Tetra Tech’s serious violations of the law in overseeing Lennar’s construction projects.

Marie Harrison is a community organizer with Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice. Eric Brooks is the campaign coordinator for Our City SF, an environmental, social justice, and consumer nonprofit.

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