Contamination reports from Treasure Island spur hearing on safety

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerInvestigating: A cleanup crew tests soil at a possibly contaminated site on Treasure Island. The Navy

Concerns about radiological contamination at Treasure Island reverberated Tuesday at City Hall amid worries from residents and advocates over possible health concerns on the man-made island owned by the U.S. Navy.

That Navy’s Aug. 6 release of a study identifying nine new sites of possible contamination, and recent reports of tension between state regulatory agencies and the military, prompted the Board of Supervisors to hold a special hearing Tuesday.

The City plans to buy the island for $105 million to make way for 8,000 homes, a hotel and an upgraded marina. But first the Navy must clean up the contamination of the former naval base to the approval of state regulatory and city officials.

And as that land transfer nears, worries over contamination and the cleanup have intensified.

Recent stories in the Bay Citizen and East Bay Express have documented new cases of previously unrevealed contamination and produced ample anecdotal evidence of high levels of cancer among long-time residents of the island.

The California Department of Public Health, which oversees the radiological aspect of the cleanup, has been out conducting tests in the newly identified sites. Results so far show no health risks, the department has said. The Navy continues to investigate the new areas.

But health risks have become the immediate focus for some of the 2,000 residents of Treasure Island, which also is home to a Boys and Girls Club, a child care center and other businesses.

“While I don’t think there’s zero possibility of finding any contamination in these newly identified areas, I don’t think that there would be significant contamination found in those areas,” said Robert Burns, the CEO of NTGS Inc., which provides cleanup oversight for the Treasure Island Development Authority. “The areas which would most likely contain the most contamination have been deemed not to present a health risk.”

Pressed by Supervisor David Campos for specifics, Burns said, “Likelihood of a public health risk, I would say probably less than 5.”

Campos responded: “I think 95 percent likelihood that we are right about no health implications is pretty good. But I don’t think it’s good enough. Hopefully we will get to 100 percent at some point.”

Supervisor Jane Kim, whose district includes the island, asked Burns, “Would you feel comfortable with your kids being at the Boys and Girls club?”

“Yes,” Burns replied. “I have two children. They are my whole world.”

Kim is co-hosting a community meeting with Navy and city officials Sept. 18 at 7 p.m. on Treasure Island at Casa de la Vista to discuss the new findings and the ongoing work.

“I want our residents to feel safe,” Kim said. “We need to be bulldogs for our residents. We need to be fighting and making sure that we are getting the answers that we need.”

The board also voted Tuesday to extend its agreements with the Navy and the Treasure Island Development Authority, which oversees the island for The City.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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