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Tetra Tech employees get prison time in Hunters Point cleanup fraud case

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Two men play with their dogs in a newly developed park that overlooks dormant buildings in parcel G at the Hunters Point shipyard. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Two people have been sentenced to eight months in prison after pleading guilty to falsifying records in the Hunters Point Shipyard cleanup, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.

Stephen C. Rolfe and Justin E. Hubbard were supervisors with the U.S. contractor Tetra Tech, which between 2002 and 2016 performed nuclear remediation work at the former U.S. naval base.

Contractors at the Shipyard were responsible for removing soil from certain sites for sampling, bagging and labeling the samples and sending them to a laboratory for analysis to determine whether the samples contained “certain radionuclides above an acceptable level,” according to the statement. The process called for additional remediation if “higher-than-allowable” levels of radionuclides were detected in the samples.

In a March 2017 plea agreement, Rolfe, 65, of Bradenton, Fla., admitted that he directed employees to get clean dirt and substitute it for samples from marked test areas. He also said he saw forms containing this false information being filled out between ten and twenty times and personally falsified data on a tracking sheet on one occasion. He was sentenced on Jan. 24.

Hubbard, 48, of Boulder City, Nev., pleaded guilty on May 10, 2017 and admitted to driving a company truck to “an area outside the marked survey unit that he was tasked with remediating” in 2012, filled a bucket with clean dirt, which he then used to swap the soil samples. Hubbard also intentionally mislabeled bags of dirt, marking them with different locations than from where the samples were obtained.

According to the statement, Hubbard also acknowledged that he falsified data knowing that it would ultimately be submitted to the U.S. Navy, to “demonstrate that the area had been successfully remediated.” Hubbard said that he switched samples from four survey units on May 31, 2012d

Hubbard was sentenced on Wednesday, and the case was unsealed at that time, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office

Hubbard and Rolfe were each charged on one count of destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in federal investigations, and were ordered to pay fines of $10,000 and $2,000, respectively. Hubbard was ordered to self-surrender by July 9, 2018, and Rolfe is currently serving his sentence.

“Rolfe and Hubbard’s lies and shortcuts in the soil-testing process potentially put the community at risk and frustrated the contracting efforts of the U.S. Navy to test and remediate soil at the former Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard,” Special Agent in Charge Chris Hendrickson said in a statement. “These results demonstrate that [Defense Criminal Investigation Service] and its law enforcement partners are committed to holding accountable those who cheat the Department of Defense procurement process and U.S. taxpayers.”

Tetra Tech spokesman Sam Singer said the company was “fully supportive” of the U.S. Department of Justice’s actions against the Hubbard and Rolfe.

“Tetra Tech vehemently rejects this type of activity and will pursue all legal actions available to it to recover the harm that the actions of these former employees have caused to Tetra Tech, the Navy, and the local community,” Singer said in a statement. “We have zero tolerance for violations of established protocols and procedures on any project site.”

The civil engineering firm was contracted by the U.S. Navy to test and clean up contaminated soil at the shipyard, where a 12,100- unit housing development and over 4 million square feet of commercial space are slated to rise in the coming years on the contaminated Superfund site.

The Navy announced earlier this year that it plans to reexamine the data produced by Tetra Tech, along with developers Fivepoint Holdings LLC and Lennar Inc., after an internal review completed last September found that nearly half of the soil samples were potentially falsified or manipulated.

A group of Bayview Hunters Point residents filed a lawsuit earlier this week naming Tetra Tech, seeking $27 billion in damages for allegedly endangering the health of residents.

Supervisor Malia Cohen has said she plans to hold a hearing on the Hunters Point cleanup issues on May 14.

In April, internal memos made public by the environmental advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) revealed that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency thought the fraud to be even more widespread.

lwaxmann@sfexaminer.com

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