The California Department of Public Health on Friday released a plan for testing a residential portion of the Hunters Point Shipyard for radiological contamination starting July 16.
In recent months, environmental justice groups and residents have called for the site to be included in a re-testing plan for the greater shipyard in light of allegations of a fraudulent toxic cleanup in areas slated for redevelopment.
The 75-acre site on a hilltop overlooking the shipyard is subdivided and has long been considered free from radiological contamination by regulatory agencies.
While Parcel A-1 has been developed into housing and is the subject of the impending survey, Parcel A-2 is currently closed off to the public, but could undergo similar scanning once the department’s work on Parcel A-1 is completed, according to CDPH Deputy Director of Environmental Health Mark Starr.
Should the surface scan reveal anomalous readings, further investigations and a resident notification process will be triggered, according to the work plan. The cost of the radiological survey will be footed by the Navy, but has yet to be determined.
According to the work plan, the survey will consist of “walking radiological scanning” conducted by teams of two CDPH staffers. The scanning will be limited to “outdoor publicly accessible areas of uncovered ground and those hardscaped areas with limited cover,” including paved roads, sidewalks, landscaped areas and playgrounds.
It will not extend to hillside slopes that surround Parcel A-1, nor will it include the residents’ homes.
“The reasoning is that we do the outdoor areas first,” said Starr. “We can do a greater proportion of the total site.”
Parcel A-1 overlooks Parcel G, another area of the shipyard slated for testing in the coming months. There, internal reviews by the Navy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made public earlier this year found that up to 97 percent of soil samples verified as free of contaminants by Navy contractor Tetra Tech may have been compromised or intentionally falsified.
In May, two former Tetra Tech supervisors were sentenced to eight months in prison after pleading guilty to falsifying records.
Last month, the Navy released a work plan for Parcel G that will include soil sampling and excavations, and is currently undergoing a 60-day public review period.
Parcel A residents were briefed on the radiological survey at a meeting held by developer Five Point and CDPH at the site on Thursday evening. Some demanded that common spaces not open to the public, such as courtyards, be included in the survey. Others said that they wanted the soil beneath their homes to be tested.
“The impression I got is that people want to see everything tested,” said Jason Fried, a Parcel A resident who sits on the board of its Homeowners Association. “ The question is, will [Five Point] give permission to CDPH to do the work that needs to be done inside the buildings, and if we get permission, can we get CDPH to say yes to doing it.”
Starr said on Friday that common areas could be included in the survey, but that soil sampling and radiological testing at residences would only take place if the survey results call for it.
“It’s a two step process,” said Starr, adding that additional action will be taken “if the scanners find something.”
Environmental justice advocates denounced the CDPH proposal as “rushed” and lacking community oversight. They also criticized the plan for not calling for comprehensive soil testing.
“The fact that they are trying to start so soon means there is no real public commentary period for something that is such a serious concern for the public,” said Bradley Angel, executive director of Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice. “Why is [CDPH] afraid and unwilling to do comprehensive sampling where people live, for both the wide range of potential radioactive contaminants as well as other hazardous contaminants?”
Starr said that “there is no reason to do random soil samples,” and explained that Parcel A, unlike the rest of the shipyard, was removed from its U.S. EPA Superfund site designation in 1999 and does not share the same toxic history as the former naval base’s other sites. The shipyard was used to clean ships returning from atomic bomb testing in the Pacific Ocean and hosted a nuclear warfare research lab.
In 2002, the U.S. EPA conducted a radiological scan that did not find abnormal radiation levels, according to the work plan. Following a 2004 assessment by the Navy that considered the site’s historical uses, Parcel A was cleared and transferred to The City for development.
But as The City’s largest active redevelopment project has been put on hold pending the re-testing efforts, many who have invested their livelihoods in the Shipyard called for transparency and additional assurances for their safety.
“I feel like this [survey] is going in the right direction, but I don’t know if it’s complete enough,” said a Parcel A resident who requested anonymity.