Parcels 30 and 31 are seen in the distance as a truck works on a construction project nearby along Avenue of the Palms on Treasure Island. (Jessica Christian/2017 S.F. Examiner)

Navy report finds ‘no radiological health risk’ on Treasure Island

Work of controversial contractor involved in shipyard cleanup deemed ‘consistent and accurate’

Treasure Island residents and watchdog groups are pushing for a public hearing on the island’s radioactive contamination and ongoing cleanup, but a report released last month by the U.S. Navy declared the work conducted there by a disgraced contractor as safe.

The environmental engineering firm Tetra Tech EC performed limited radiological work at Treasure Island between 2007-2008 and 2013-2016. The company is facing multiple lawsuits over a botched radioactive cleanup at the Hunters Point Shipyard.

The report, released nearly a week after current and former Treasure Island residents rallied for increased scrutiny of the toxic cleanup on the former U.S. Naval base in March, concludes that the Navy has “determined [Tetra Tech EC’s work] to be consistent and accurate” and that “there is no radiological health risk to the community,” citing historical data and past reviews by local and state regulatory agencies.

Among the sites cleared is a residential parcel where current soil removal efforts are focused, known as Site 12. According to the Navy’s report, Site 12 includes four waste disposal sites along with housing, and a 2011 survey conducted by the California Department of Public Health identified two areas outside of the disposal sites with elevated levels of “radiological energy.”

Under the oversight of the state health department and the Navy, Tetra Tech EC removed potential contamination sources at those sites and “provided appropriate waste disposal,” per the report, which also states that the company provided split samples to the department as an accountability measure.

Another radiological survey conducted in 2013 that called for remediation in five areas within the housing site was cleaned using the same process and oversight, according to the report.

The Navy concludes that those living and working on Site 12 are not at risk because the remediation “was conducted with close review and oversight by CPDH and the Navy” and “independent confirmation surveys” were conducted.

Treasure Island, like the Hunters Point Shipyard, is slated for a massive housing development in the coming years.

Audits by the U.S. Navy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concluded early last year that up to 97 percent of Tetra Tech’s data may have been compromised or intentionally faked at the shipyard, reinvigorating long standing calls by environmental justice groups for comprehensive retesting and independent oversight of the process.

Development of the shipyard has been put on hold pending the retesting efforts.

Last May, two former Tetra Tech supervisors were sentenced to eight months in federal prison for admitting to falsifying records related to the cleanup. The company has maintained that the fraud was not a widespread issue.

On Treasure Island, state health officials have confirmed that radioactive isotopes found in some areas include Cesium -137, Radium -226, and Thorium-232, but environmental advocates and whistleblowers caution that chemical toxins also pose health threats for residents.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a watchdog group, filed a lawsuit against the Navy in February seeking the release of records on the Treasure Island cleanup.

David Anton, an attorney representing whistleblowers in the shipyard cleanup, said that “the Navy did not find any problems with 10 years of Tetra Tech’s work at the shipyard because they weren’t looking hard enough and they weren’t trying to find the problem.”

He alleged that the “same defects and same manipulation occurred during the two plus years that Tetra Tech EC worked at Treasure Island,” where the company had “the same incentive to engage in fraud.”

“It’s really sad the level of analysis the Navy is engaged in,” said Anton. “They won’t show us the third party report that did the data review because there isn’t one.”

Tetra Tech spokesperson Sam Singer called the Navy’s report “new evidence” that supports Tetra Tech EC’s contention that “the allegations made in lawsuits against the company are false” for both Treasure Island and the Hunters Point Shipyard.

“To date, substantial evidence has been presented by independent regulatory agencies that Tetra Tech EC properly remediated Hunters Point and Treasure Island,” said Singer. “We hope these scientific findings help reassure the public and the community that Tetra Tech EC met the standards set by the Navy and did its work properly.”

District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney said that while he has not seen the Navy’s report on Treasure Island, he supports residents and advocates in their call for a public hearing on the cleanup. However, he has not called for or scheduled such a hearing at this time.

lwaxmann@sfexaminer.com

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