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Volume 27, November 1999

Table of Contents

Firefighters Sound Alarm about Toxic Hazards
Notification to Every Alameda Point Employee is the Law

The Navy admits they violated Federal Occupational Health and Safety Laws by failing to notify firefighters about environmental toxins at their work site. Navy firefighters raised concerns in December 1996 that one of their work sites, Site 15, was among the 25 identified toxic waste sites at Alameda Point. Every employee who is working at one of the 25 identified toxic waste sites at Alameda Point is entitled by law to this notification. Every Navy employee, every City of Alameda employee, every EBMUD employee, every PG&E employee, and every employee of every Alameda Point tenants are entitled to this notification by their employer's legal obligation and by terms of their lease agreement.

Site 15 was used for disposal of PCB transformer fluid and lead acid batteries. It was originally identified as a toxic waste site in 1983. In 1990, the Navy initiated a Hazard Communication Program to inform workers of the suspected presence of toxic substances at the identified toxic waste sites such as Site 15. Despite these events, the Navy firefighters maintained the unpaved site along the shoreline of the Oakland Estuary for 20 years without information on the contamination and without the personnel protective equipment (gloves, suits, and masks) they had at their disposal.

According to earlier reports (Sacramento Bee, December 1, 1996) Navy firefighters first learned about the PCB contamination at Site 15 after reading newspaper accounts of the cleanup at the base. The San Francisco Chronicle had reported on Clearwater Revival Company's report "One Million Dollars to No Where, Analysis of Key Decisions, Installation Restoration Site 15, Alameda Naval Air Station," in May 1996.

In addition to Site 15, the Alameda Naval Air Station Firefighters were also housed at a contaminated site. In December 1998, the Navy's Environmental Baseline Surveys adjusted the boundaries of Site 5 groundwater contamination plumes to include the Alameda Point Fire Station. These contaminants would pose a threat to indoor air quality.

Cal-EPA Can't Find Toxic Waste Site
Navy Hid Site beneath Housing Units

At an October 27, 1999, the Navy, US EPA, Cal-EPA and ATSDR released information that misrepresented the known extent of toxic contamination and the resulting risks to Coast Guard families living on a Superfund site. A benzene groundwater plume map clearly ignored contamination that is known to exist beneath housing units which were constructed on an unpaved military storage yard in 1990-91.

The Navy conducted environmental investigations at several locations of the FISC/Annex in 1987 to identify a site for a new housing development. Contamination identified in these investigations led to a 1992 Navy-State Federal Facility Site Restoration Agreement to conduct a more complete investigation and cleanup.

Instead of conducting a cleanup, a 22-acre area included in the agreement was used to construct the 300 unit Marina Village Family Housing. In a 1994 letter, Cal-EPA had to ask the Navy for clarification on whether the Marina Village Housing Area was included in their 1992 Navy-State agreement.

Marina Village Housing is currently occupied by Coast Guard families. Sampling of the air inside residences in 1993 demonstrated the mistake the Navy made in constructing residential housing at this location. We can only speculate why Cal-EPA did not use the power of the 1992 Navy-State agreement to fulfill their responsibility to protect public health, and require groundwater cleanup before these residential units were built.

The Navy went as far as to consult the federal public health services agency, ATSDR, in 1993. ATSDR recommended annual testing of the air inside residences and the removal of the source of benzene (groundwater contaminant plume). This annual testing and the cleanup of benzene contamination was never performed by the Navy.

As for Cal-EPA, they are still trying to figure out if the Marina Village Housing Area is included in their Federal Facilities Site Restoration Agreement. In other words, Cal-EPA is either clueless or environmentally racist. Marina Village Housing census tract has the lowest median income in the City of Alameda. Cal-EPA has a history of forgetting about toxic cleanup sites in poor neighborhoods.

Leaking Radioactive Material Container and other Blunders
For Second Straight Year Alameda Point Gets the Homer

On October 10, 1999, the Alameda Fire Department received a call about a leaking, uncovered, and unlabeled container containing a "radioactive material" package all but ensuring the dunce cap of nuclear safety would remain on the Navy's head for another year. The container was one of half a dozen located west of Building 5, in close proximity to the Alameda Skate Park at Alameda Point.

The Alameda Fire Department required several hours and mutual aid from the City of Oakland to secure the site. The leaking container was the property of a Navy cleanup contractor who is currently removing radioactive material contamination from Building 5 and sewer drains around the building. This same contractor was previously responsible for the illegal discharge of radioactive contaminated groundwater to San Francisco Bay which earned the US Navy their previous Homer.

The radiation surveys which have now been completed at the Northwest Territory Viewpoint Tour Site also deserve special recognition. This former Navy tour site was set admidst unexploded ordnance, radioactive wastes and toxic wastes. Over 5,800 survey points were identified which exceeded the Navy's safety standard for radiation exposure. During the radiation survey, bomb squads coordinated the removal and open-air detonation of over 300 unexploded ordnance at the tour site. The burial of toxic wastes, explosive wastes, and radioactive wastes at this location was documented in 1993, but did not prevent the Navy and BRAG from making the area a public destination.

Quote of the Month

"That is the reason there is a Superfund site. The Navy minimizes and trivializes everything."

Former Alameda Naval Air Station Marty Martinson, after spending 15 years working at a Toxic Waste Site contaminated with lead and PCBs, being told by the Navy that health effects only result from "long-term" exposure.

The Development Blinded Purchase Leaking Underground Tank Site
Now set canes on Navy Superfund Site that is being given away

The City of Alameda, with no qualified staff to handle the project, and a development-blinded City Manager, is proposing to perform the cleanup of Navy contamination at the FISC/Annex and East Housing. The same City of Alameda that recently purchased a leaking underground storage tank site (Dale's Bar) to develop a public park. The same City of Alameda that has previously mishandled contaminated soil at Alameda Point creating Superfund liability and additional contamination of San Francisco Bay.

The City Manager has been negotiating with the Navy, to receive title to the Alameda Point Superfund Site before cleanup is complete through a "dirty transfer" process. "Dirty transfer" has been represented as an efficient way to complete the cleanup of Alameda Point. The actual effect will be no cleanup and the passage of an impractical ordinance that would prevent future property owners from digging into the ground.

The City of Alameda purchased parcels from Union Pacific Railroad and Dale's Bar in 1998 to construct storm water facilities and a new park. A post-purchase environmental review by the City identified underground fuel storage tanks and high levels of fuel contamination. On average the financial liability for a leaking underground storage tank is $140,000.

While the City could pay for the cleanup of Dale's Bar by firing a staff attorney, that might not be prudent. Results from samples from the toxic waste soil piles stored near the Main Street Dog Park in violation of the Storm water Pollution Prevention Ordnance indicate that the City is going to being needing additional legal services in the near future. These soils stockpiles uncovered, and immediately adjacent the Oakland Estuary contained high levels of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons exposing the City to a number of potential "toxic tort" claims.

Given the environmental expertise previously demonstrated by the City Manager, Alameda is taking giant steps on the road to bankruptcy.

How Did the Navy Determine the Chemicals were Present?
Site 25 Fact Sheet based more on Fiction than Fact

The Navy Fact Sheet on the Site 25 Toxic Waste Site says the Navy determined chemicals were present at Site 25 in the following manner:
"After the base was closed in 1997, the Navy took a broad environmental look at the entire base to prepare the property for transfer to the City of Alameda, continuing work that had been under way since 1993. Additional sampling was conducted in early 1998, and the resulting data indicate that pockets of PAH contamination are spread over a wide area."

The minutes from the February 1998 Restoration Advisory Board meeting indicate a different reality:
"A community member announced that he has taken the time to analyze the results of all 214 Environmental Baseline Surveys. He relayed that an area with a documented cancer risk of 1-in-a-100 is still accessible to the public. He noted samples were collected two years ago, and he believes it would have been appropriate to restrict access upon discovery of this potential problem. The area is a public park in the Coast Guard Housing Area, Parcel 182, adjacent to FISC/Annex. ( see EJPP Volume 10).

Parcel 182, Estuary Park, Site 25, it doesn't matter what you call it. The contamination was discovered by the Navy during a public comment period. A resident of Alameda who took the time to read Navy's report pointed the contamination in Estuary Park out to the Navy. That's the fact.

Question Authority - "Truth or Consequences?"

The Navy, US EPA, ATSDR, and Cal-EPA conspired on October 27, 1999, in releasing misleading and incorrect information about Toxic Waste Site 25. A key reason behind this misinformation is the incompetence these agencies have collectively demonstrated in identifying and eliminating public health hazards in Estuary Park, George Miller School, and the Coast Guard Housing Areas over the past ten years. The inability of these agencies to communicate truthfully, undermines the public's trust. These agencies need to admit their errors, and set things right. By continuing to ignore their past mistakes, these agencies simply make the public health consequences worse.

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 ejpp@toxicspot.com.

October 1999 Edition
November 3, 1999