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Shipyard activists take aim at Newsom over Camp Fire cleanup contract

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Attorney Charles Bonner speaks to reporters alongside Bayview-Hunters Point residents as they call on California Gov. Gavin Newsom to drop Tetra Tech as a contracted cleanup agency for those affected by the Camp Fire in a news conference outside the California State Building on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Gov. Gavin Newsom is facing calls to intervene after a company linked to the soil testing scandal at the Hunters Point Shipyard received a state contract worth as much as $250 million to clean up wildfire debris.

Hunters Point residents who claim to have suffered health impacts as a result of the botched and allegedly fraudulent Hunters Point cleanup urged the governor on Monday to rescind a contract that a state disaster agency awarded to Tetra Tech, Inc. for the management of debris removal from Butte County in the wake of the deadly Camp Fire.

“It is a slap in the face of the injuries that these people have been suffering for years,” said Charles Bonner, an attorney who filed a class-action lawsuit against the company on behalf of neighborhood residents last May. “It is an insult.”

SEE RELATED: Bayview Hunters Point residents sue U.S. Navy contractor over data falsification

Tetra Tech, Inc. is the owner of Tetra Tech EC, Inc., which collected data samples during the cleanup of the former military base that the federal government has found to be largely unreliable. In 2017, two Tetra Tech supervisors pleaded guilty to falsifying soil samples in federal court.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice sued Tetra Tech EC, alleging that the fraud expanded beyond the two supervisors, into the upper management of the company.

The Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, also known as CalRecycle, awarded the contract to Tetra Tech, Inc. through a competitive bidding process that began last month. The San Francisco Chronicle first reported the award.

Bonner held a press conference near San Francisco’s City Hall with a small group of neighbors and activists including Minister Christopher Muhammad of the National of Islam and activist Elaine Brown, a former leader of the Black Panther Party. The group threatened to march on the Capitol if the contract is not cancelled in 30 days.

“The people in Butte County need to know that Tetra Tech defrauded Hunters Point, they’ve defrauded other communities and they will definitely defraud the people in Butte County,” Bonner said. “There are toxins there from this fire. They make money by taking the money and not doing a cleanup job.”

A Tetra Tech EC spokesperson called the press conference a “publicity stunt.”

“The company and its management will prevail following an impartial and transparent legal and scientific review of the facts at Hunters Point Shipyard,” company spokesperson Sam Singer said in a statement.

“The residents of Butte County should be pleased to know that Tetra Tech Inc. is one of the world’s leading companies and has an excellent record at cleanup and restorations,” he said.

Singer said the “misleading claims” against the company “stem from isolated acts by two rogue employees during the 2011 to 2012 timeframe.”

A spokesperson for Newsom directed the San Francisco Examiner to CalRecycle for comment.

The agency did not respond to a request for comment, but previously told the Sacramento Bee that the company “has proven to be a reliable debris management contractor, meeting CalRecycle’s high standards for health and safety, performance, and operational accountability.”

CalRecycle also said it would provide additional oversight to the project as well as other Camp Fire contracts because of their large sizes.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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