Environmental Justice Progress Report

Volume 6, June 1997

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After Four Years of Negotiations Navy/Cal-EPA Dispute Continues

Site 15 and Site 16 Cleanup Plans

Has Alameda Center for Environmental Technologies thrown in the shovel?

After Four Years of Negotiations Navy/Cal-EPA Dispute Continues

The ongoing Navy/Cal-EPA have prevented the signing of a Federal Facility Site Restoration Agreement. This agreement is the legal mechanism to protect west end residents from pollution remaining at NAS properties. The disagreement is about two points:
In most instances, NAS properties contain residual chemicals that prevent it from being safely used for residential housing. In such instances Cal-EPA has requested that a Remedial Action Workplan be prepared and the Navy disagrees that a workplan is necessary. From a community perspective, a workplan provides an opportunity for public comment that would not otherwise be provided. The workplan also requires the Navy to justify leaving pollution in place by demonstrating that cleanup is technically or economically impractical.

The second dispute involves the development of cleanup concentrations for chemicals that are protective of human health. The Navy has taken a position that cleanup concentrations can be set 100 times higher than those recommended by the Cal-EPA. Community residents agree with Cal-EPA that the Navy's proposal places an unreasonable burden on public health.

All Things Being Equal State vs. Community Acceptance

The Restoration Advisory Board's request to participate in resolving the ongoing dispute between the Navy and the State received a "no thank you" in letters from both agencies that were distributed at the June 1997 RAB meeting. How can a policy for cleanup of pollution in our community be made by people in Sacramento and Norfolk, Virginia, without consideration over whether the policy is acceptable to the local community?

The Cal-EPA/Navy dispute has begun to highlight the nature of public participation in the environmental cleanup at NAS. The public can only participate as a member of the audience. Whether a cleanup plan is acceptable to the community will be determined by the State and Navy.

Is the Navy Cleanup Plan Racist?

Does the Navy's proposed tiered-screening method for cleanup evaluations provide a level of health and environmental protection equal to or greater than the cleanup evaluations method used elsewhere in the Bay Area? No. The Navy's tiered-screening method does not provide "equal protection under the law." The tiered-screening policy directed at the predominately low-income and ethnic neighborhoods of the West End is racist. The Navy is in complete contradiction with the President's Executive Order 12898 requiring them to address the disproportionate pollution burdens in communities like the West End.

Site 15 and Site 16 Cleanup Plans

On July 8, 1997, the Navy will release cleanup plans for Site 15 and Site 16 for a 30-day public comment period. Both Site 15, located near the estuary, and Site 16, located near Encinal High School, have PCB and lead contamination in surface soils. The Navy will propose excavating contaminated soil, and transporting the toxic soil through Alameda to another community where the toxic soil will be dumped.

The Navy wants to bypass usual cleanup procedures by outlining Sites 15 and 16 cleanup plans in Engineering Evaluation and Cost Analysis (EE/CA) reports instead of Record of Decision (ROD) documents. The difference? The ROD creates a legal obligation for the Navy to complete the cleanup, as well as a document that ensures the proposed cleanup complies with the law. Because the Navy and State have not signed a restoration agreement for the site the EE/CA plan would not be enforceable. As we have seen previously at NAS, cleanup plans outlined in an EE/CA reports can be modified without community consent, can be implemented in a dangerous and incompetent manner, and can be later aborted, all at tremendous cost to future cleanup activities.

Until a site restoration agreement is signed between the Navy and the State, or a ROD is prepared, the Site 15 and Site 16 cleanups should be postponed.

Public Comment Period Ends August 8, 1997
The Navy will accept and respond to written comments on the Site 15 and Site 16 Engineering Evaluation and Cost Analysis reports until August 8, 1997. Submit comments to Ms. Camille Garibaldi, Department of the Navy, Engineering Field Activity West, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, 900 Commodore Drive, Building 208, San Bruno, California 94066-5006.

Site 16 Cleanup in Shadows of Encinal High School

Dust generated when PCB and lead contaminated soil is excavated from Site 16 may contain harmful enough levels of toxic air contaminants that air quality limits may be exceeded. The Navy has previously mismanaged toxic soil from underground storage tank and RCRA (hazardous waste) corrective action sites along the property line it shares with West End residents and Encinal High School.

Navy's record for managing toxic soil piles

Will this happen again at Site 16 cleanup?

Possibly. There is simply no confidence in the Navy's abiltiy to perform this cleanup work in a legal and safe manner.

The community has a right-to-know

Site 15 and 16 Alternatives... are they?

The Navy considered three cleanup alternatives for Sites 15 and 16. These three alternatives included:

Under Superfund law alternatives must be compared using nine criteria. Two criteria are evaluated during the 30-day comment period (see cover page):
Two criteria must be met by all alternatives:

The proposed cleanup plans may not comply with the law and may not protect human health and the environment (see Figure 1).

The remaining five criteria are used to evaluate the differences in the alternatives and include:

Long-term Effectiveness - because of the long-term uncertainties with land disposal (most landfills eventually leak) none of the alternatives provide permanent solutions.

Preference for treatment - Though treatment to reduce mobility, toxicity and volume of hazardous waste is preferred under the law, only Alternative C provides any form of treatment.

Short-term Effectiveness - Short-term risks include the dust generated by all three alternatives. Alternative A also requires toxic soil to travel on Alameda streets.

Implementability - Alternatives B and C would require Environmental Impact Reports to be prepared.

Cost - Costs for alternatives ranged from $500,000 for Alternative A to $2,400,000 for Alternative C.

Has the Alameda Center for Environmental Technologies thrown in the shovel?

Innovative environmental technologies have been quickly abandoned at NAS. The Navy has gone back to using the old and preferred waste management techniques of digging a hole and filling it back in. The problem remains the same and only the location of the problem has changed. Those residing in Alameda might prefer to have these problems removed but residents in Livermore and Kettleman City are now in for a dose of what the West End has been tolerating for years.

Superfund is very clear that land disposal is not the answer. Alamedans have previously expressed their desire to see contaminated soil treated prior to land disposal.

Currently the only "innovative" technologies being evaluated for use at NAS hazardous waste sites are the "do nothing" approach. You let nature take its course and cleanup the problem itself. When you realize that some of the contamination at NAS was left behind by an oil refinery that closed in 1903 you can only ask when does this "natural cleanup" begin to take place.

It is time to reintroduce science to the cleanup at NAS. We've seen what shovels can do.

May 1997 Edition | NAS Site Map | Clearwater Revival Home Page

Revised July 1, 1997