The U.S. Navy has “shown interest” in taking a contractor accused of fraud up on an offer made last month to pay for the retesting of the Hunters Point Shipyard, according to a statement released by the company Wednesday.
Tetra Tech EC was tasked with cleaning the shipyard of radioactive contamination between 2002 and 2016 in preparation for a massive redevelopment into housing and commercial space, but has faced mounting accusations of data fraud from the Navy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in recent months. A review by the Navy last September found that 50 percent of samples collected may have been faked, and a subsequent review by the EPA found that nearly all samples taken from two sites may have been compromised.
Two former Tetra Tech supervisors have been sentenced to eight months in prison for knowingly swapping soil samples and falsifying records, and whistleblowers have been making allegations against the company for at least six years. Environmental advocates have long urged city, state and federal regulatory agencies and government leaders to retest the shipyard and other sites where Tetra Tech has been contracted for toxic cleanup work.
Tetra Tech, however, has denied accusations of wrongdoing, and in April offered to pay for an independent review of the data and retesting of the compromised sites to restore public confidence in its name. The company has also recommended in its offer to the Navy that “other observers oversee the independent retesting process.”
“Tetra Tech EC was responsible for remediating approximately 22 percent of Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, but false claims made by a plaintiffs’ attorney and his clients that the work was not done properly have led to false and misleading speculation and community concern,” reads the statement. The statement refers to a class-action lawsuit filed by Bayview Hunters Point residents on May 1 accusing Tetra Tech of “intentional fraud, greed and disregard for the health and safety” of the local community.
Supervisor Malia Cohen, whose district includes Hunters Point, has called for a hearing on the data falsification scandal on May 14. In January, the Navy announced it would retest the sites where Tetra Tech has performed cleanup work since 2002.
“The bottom line is the work that Tetra Tech EC did at the Hunters Point Shipyard is 100 percent valid and is safe,” said Sam Singer, a spokesperson for Tetra Tech. “We are very pleased that the Navy wants to have independent retesting, which we would be pleased to pay for because that would put all the false rumors and speculation and any concerns aside, because we know an independent testing will properly demonstrate that the area [was] remediated.”
A spokesperson for the Navy did not respond to requests for comment by press time. The Navy has previously stated that the purpose of its reevaluation workplan “is not to exonerate the contractors involved” but to offer “comprehensive, credible date to reassure the community about their safety, determine the extent of any remediation activities needed, and complete the clenaup of the HPNS.”
Singer said that if the Navy chooses to accept Tetra Tech’s offer, the Navy would be responsible for picking a third-party contractor to perform the resampling.
UPDATE: Navy spokesman Derek Robinson forwarded the following statement at 9:50 a.m. Thursday morning:
“Independent retesting is a critical element of the Navy’s Hunters Point reevaluation workplan. We believe it to be necessary to provide a comprehensive, credible data set to reassure the community about their safety as well as determine the extent of any remediation activities needed to complete the cleanup of HPNS. Tetra Tech has made a broad public offer to pay for retesting; the Navy requires a more concrete and specific proposal to evaluate the appropriateness of their offer. The safety of the HPNS residents is the Navy’s highest priority, so the retesting must be carried out to the highest standard by a third party, under supervision, and according to a plan approved by the regulatory agencies.”