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Volume 24, July-August 1999

Table of Contents

Ground-breaking for Main Street Park
City might as well be Breaking Wind

It took two scoops and the back-hoe operator pointed to his nose and stepped down from his cab. Using his ungloved hand he grabbed a fistful of the soil he had just unearthed from the proposed Main Street park and brought it to his nose. He then held his soiled hand out for the suit from the City of Alameda to have a smell.

Unexpected toxic contamination? Hardly, 20 feet away, the Coast Guard's Marina Village Family Housing was built on top of a plume containing high levels of benzene and polynuclear aromatics. The Main Street Park is also within the boundaries of the Marsh Crust. The City of Alameda failed to perform due diligence before using imminent domain to acquire this contaminated property from Union Pacific Railroad for purposes of building a new park and stormwater facilities. The contamination makes the property unsuitable for a park, unsuitable for a storm water retention pond, and the current conditions are incompatible with the nearby residential uses.

The City was so poorly prepared to deal with contamination at the Main Street Park on July 28, 1999, that they resorted to illegally burying the hazardous waste they had unearthed. The four City public works employees at the Main Street Park Site have not completed health and safety training making it illegal for them to work at the site. The City failed to notify the air district making it illegal to excavate contaminated soil. Finally the city was not prepared with the necessary health and safety plans and equipment to legally and safely perform the work. The City now needs to install warning signs and a fence around the property.

The Main Street Park will be the fifth contaminated site in West Alameda used to construct a City Park. Other contaminated parks include Main Street Dog Park, City View Skate Park, Main Street Soccer Field and Woodstock Park. Contaminated parks are a tribute to the environmental leadership of the City of Alameda.

Alameda Point Officially a Superfund Site
Final Rule Ignored Public Comments

The US EPA announced the official placement of the Alameda Naval Air Station on the National Priority List of uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. In the Final Rule published in the Federal Register on July 22, 1999, the US EPA said that no comments were received during the public comment period on the proposed listing. This statement by the EPA ignores comments received on inconsistent statements made by the EPA regarding the boundaries of the CERCLA facility.

The US EPA published a Proposed Rule on May 10, 1999, and the Final Rule on July 22, 1999, that states that a CERCLA facility is "broadly defined to include any area where a hazardous substance release has 'come to be located,' the listing process itself is not intended to define or reflect the boundaries of such facilities or releases." Contrary to this statement, the EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response issued a fact sheet about the Alameda Point Naval Air Station which described CERCLA facility boundaries. The Fact Sheet said that an area where a hazardous substance release had 'come to be located' would be specifically excluded from NPL Listing. "This listing is not intended to include the subsurface soil contamination layer known as the marsh crust and subtidal area," reads the May 1999 EPA Fact Sheet.

The US EPA has used the NPL Listing process for purposes of defining boundaries of the CERCLA facility, which the EPA's Final Rule acknowledges is not the purpose of the NPL Listing process. For the EPA to fail to respond to public comments that addressed the fundamental fairness of using the NPL Listing process for a purpose for which it was not intended, results in continued and disparate human health impacts to West End residents. Instead of addressing this disparate human health impact, the EPA's Superfund listing has perpetuated it.

Quote of the Month

" .. problematic evidence that the size of the crust was larger than initially expected. The comments indicate that the earlier investigation was not comprehensive enough. "

RAB Members synopsis of Cal-EPA comments on the Marsh Crust Feasibility Study. The Navy did not complete a Remedial Investigation for the Marsh Crust as required by law.

Coast Guard Families Getting Dirty
Home Gardeners work in toxic soils

"The Navy, California EPA, US EPA and the City of Alameda all agree that the North Housing area poses no harmful health hazards to current residents," reads a deplorable July 1, 1999 letter from the US Navy to Coast Guard families living in North Housing. So the Coast Guard families are planting rose bushes, children are using playground equipment installed in toxic hot spots, and North Housing continues to be remodeled to increase the number of families that will be exposed to this uncontrolled toxic waste site.

The risks Coast Guard families face from exposure to benzo(a)pyrene in playground soils, and from exposure to benzene in indoor-air exceed the Proposition 65 "Safe Harbor" levels contained in California Code of Regulations. The risk of cancer to North Housing residents estimated using both California EPA and US EPA risk assessment policies exceeds the acceptable risk level of 1-in-10,000. North Housing contains the highest estimated risk from indoor-air exposure, and adjacent Estuary Park contains the highest risk from soil exposure of any properties at the Alameda Point Naval Air Station for which risk assessments have been prepared.

The statement that "...North Housing area poses no harmful health hazards..." contradicts state law and the conclusions of the Navy's Environmental Baseline Surveys. The statement is apparently based on the exposure assumptions for military-residential property use that are less protective than the exposure assumptions used for private-residential property uses. If this suspicion is correct and different standard of human health protection are being applied to individuals living in federal housing than are applied to individuals living in private-housing, then the Navy, California EPA, US EPA, and City of Alameda are violating the Civil Rights of Coast Guard families and in doing so forfeit their rights to receive federal funding.

Alameda remains Blind to Toxics Liability
Admissions in Reuse EIR may Bankrupt City

When the City of Alameda released an Environmental Impact Report for the Reuse of the Alameda Naval Air Station and Fleet Industrial Supply Center the City casually acknowledged that much of the toxic contamination found in the project area is a result of industrial activities that occurred while the property was owned by the City of Alameda, and before the city sold to property to the US Navy for one dollar. The City of Alameda is now potentially liable for toxic waste cleanup that may cost as much as $1.2 billion. This is a high price to pay for the development-blinded environmental leadership in City Hall.

Removal Actions Proving Ineffective
Unsafe Cleanup Standards, No Public Notifications

For soils contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), both Site 15 (Oakland Estuary Shoreline) and Site 16 (adjacent to Encinal High School) used a 1.0 mg/kg cleanup standards. The Navy stated that this cleanup level would be adequate for residential use and describes the completed removal actions as effective long-term cleanup remedies in the Draft Feasibility Study for Operable Unit No. 1.

These representation are inconsistent with the recent NPL Listing. Alameda NAS was placed on the Superfund list because PCBs were found in soils at a maximum concentration of 0.4839 mg/kg at Site 2 (West Beach Landfill). If 0.4893 mg/kg in soil places Alameda NAS on the Superfund list, how does a cleanup to 1.0 mg/kg get Alameda NAS removed?

Recent lead testing also questions the effectiveness of the Site 16 removal action. Sample results indicated that lead contaminated soils above the 300 mg/kg cleanup standard remains at the site.

The Site 15 Removal Action was heavily criticized in May 1995 for the failure to follow the legally mandated public notification requirements. In the closure report for this Removal Action the US EPA has informed the Navy that they failed to conform with public notifications for the illegal hazardous waste landfill they constructed. The Navy removed the illegal landfill for safety reasons in September 1997.

Navy tanker trucks have been discharging contaminated groundwater directly into San Francisco Bay as part of a radioactive material Removal Action at Site 5. The Navy violated groundwater discharge standards for the Removal Action at Site 5 in November 1998. These standards were issued under the condition the discharge of contaminated groundwater did not extend beyond six months. Six months has passed and the discharges continue. Based on the information in the Site 5 Removal Action administrative record for that the Navy is legally obligated to maintain at the public library, the Navy's discharges of contaminated groundwater into the bay from tank trucks is illegal.

To describe a Removal Action as effective it must meet two criteria. First it must be protective of human health and the environment, which the PCB cleanup levels used at Site 15 and Site 16 are not. Second, the Removal Action must comply with the law. The Navy's continued failure to comply with public records requirements, makes every cleanup action the Navy takes ineffective.

Perform a Treatability Study at Alameda Point
See How Many Safety Laws You Can Break

Treatability studies are intended to provide some evidence that a potential cleanup technology can meet two threshold criteria. If a technology can be legally and safely operated during a treatability study, it can be considered during evaluation of cleanup alternatives in the Feasibility Study. The Treatability Studies conducted at Alameda Point have had one thing in common, they have not met these two threshold criteria.

Each contractor has failed to comply with Health and Safety laws and site-specific Health and Safety Plans. Contractors are not wearing gloves, safety glasses, hard-hats, shoes, shirts and pants while performing hazardous waste site operations. On at least six occasions since a complaint was made to the Navy workers at the Site 5 steam injection plant have not been wearing pants. These workers should be removed from the site and replaced with individuals who have been properly trained. Similarly, the Site 4 Iron Curtain, and the Site 5 DNAPL Injection plant individuals need to don required safety equipment.

The uncontrolled aeration of soil contaminated with RCRA wastes, including vinyl chloride, is inconsistent with air quality standards, and state and federal hazardous waste laws. This illegal treatment has occurred as part of the Site 5 Steam Injection study.

Borings were performed for temporary utility poles to provide electrical service to the Site 4 iron gate. Contaminated soil from these borings remains scattered on the ground and in the wind. Using the wind to dispose of residual wastes from cleanup activities is not consistent with cleanup program documents, or state and federal hazardous waste laws.

In the future the Navy should not only demonstrate that a treatability study can be performed in a safe and legal fashion, but the Navy should begin to conduct all of their activities at Alameda Point in a safe and legal manner.

Question Authority - At what income level are citizen's entitled to protection under federal and state toxic laws?

To describe extensive toxic pollution at North Housing as "perfectly safe," or to describe pentachlorophenol as a "petroleum related chemical" is immoral. The conditions reported in the Coast Guard Housing area Parcel 181 should have resulted in an imminent and substantial endangerment determination by the Base Cleanup Team (BCT) when results of February 1999 soil sampling were originally reported. Instead the City of Alameda is building a public park on an adjacent toxic waste site, complete with a pond to collect toxic groundwater, which will maximize Coast Guard families' exposure to toxins. Marina Village Family Housing is the last affordable housing project constructed in the City. Both Marina Village Family Housing and North Housing are Federally-owned developments. It appears that personal income is an accurate indicator of the level of public health protection to which a resident of Alameda is entitled.

The Environmental Justice Progress Report is the newsletter of West End Concerned Citizens (WECC). WECC has been monitoring the toxic cleanup planning process at the Alameda Point Naval Air Station (NAS) since 1995. Our community members have become increasingly frustrated at the lack of response to the public's concerns, the inadequate information provided to the public, and the lack of opportunities for the public to participate in the decision making process.

To receive a free copy of the this monthly report of for more information, please contact us at clearh2orev@toxicspot.com.

June 1999 Edition
May 31, 1999