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Volume 28, December 1999

Table of Contents

Respiratory Protection required at Antiques-by-the-Bay
Navy Cleanup Crews Don Moon-suits for Decontamination Work

"Misrepresenting the cleanup of Alameda Point as a means to win an argument does a disservice to the city, ARRA and the Navy's environmental cleanup program." That was the message contained in a letter to the editor which was published in the Alameda Journal on June 19-22, 1998. The letter written by the Navy, was aimed at discrediting concerns raised by some members of the public about toxic contamination within a taxiway that was proposed for, and is currently being used by, the monthly Antiques-by-the-Bay swap meet.

Several days after the December swap meet, a Navy environmental cleanup crew was working at the site. This is the first cleanup crew that EJPP has observed at Alameda Point that was using Level C personal protection. Level C includes gloves, disposable coveralls (to prevent workers from bringing toxic dust from work to their homes), and an air-purifying respirator.

The Navy previously misrepresented that the cleanup work in the area of the swap meet would be completed before the event began in the fall of 1998. The Navy also misrepresented that contamination was either covered by a "protective barrier" or it was fenced to bar public access.

By continuing to misrepresent information to win an argument, it is the Navy that has done a disservice to the City, ARRA and it's own environmental cleanup program. The Navy owes an apology to the individuals that they attempted to discredit in June of 1998, and the Navy owes an explanation and warning to the ARRA, Antiques-by-the-Bay promoters, and the thousands of people who have been unknowingly exposed to environmental toxins at the swap meet site.

Antiques by the Bay

Historical Marsh Crust Contamination not that Old
The Alternative "Crash and Burn" Hypothesis

The "Crash and Burn" Hypothesis has been developed as a more plausible explanation for the contamination at Alameda Point known as the marsh crust. The marsh crust is contamination that has been positively identified immediately east of George Miller School. The Navy has speculated that the contamination exists on over 700 acres of Navy and surrounding private property.

The "Crash and Burn" hypothesis refers to a 1960's Navy practice of burning the fuselages of crashed airplanes to facilitate recycling of the aluminum metal. Waste oils, contaminated fuels and waste solvents were used to burn the fuselage on a dirt lot that is now part of the George Miller School playground. A large portion of the liquid waste did not burn and instead seeped into the ground where it is found today.

Since 1994, the Navy has been trying to blame this groundwater and soil contamination on pre-World War II industries in West Alameda and Oakland's Jack London Square. The Navy maintains that 700 acres of former marshland and subtidal area were contaminated prior to filling. The Navy characterizes the contamination is confined to a 1 to 2 foot thick layer of soil eight to 20 feet below the current ground surface. After estimating cleanup costs as high as $1.6 billion dollars, the Navy determined the no cleanup would provide the best protection of human health and the environment from toxins found in the Marsh Crust.

Based on all available evidence, the "Crash and Burn" Hypothesis is more plausible than Navy's speculative Marsh Crust hypothesis.

Risk Management Ineffective at Marina Village Housing
No Longterm Protection to Residents, the Environment

Marina Village Family housing was constructed in 1990-91, on an outdoor storage yard used by both the Navy and the Army since the 1940s. Environmental sampling revealed that toxic metals were found in soils at levels that represented a public health threat and a threat to water quality in San Francisco Bay.

In 1990, the Navy proposed a cleanup remedy that included adding two feet of clean soil on top of the contaminated soil before the housing units were constructed. This soil cap was to provide a barrier between residents and the contamination and prevent pollution of stormwater runoff. However, inadequate precautions have been taken by public works crews excavating through this soil cap. As a result contaminated soil is now present at the groundsurface exposing residents to toxins, and leading to contamination of stormwater runoff and San Francisco Bay.

marina village

Quote of the Month

"A separate listing of the marsh crust would be required to make the entire marsh crust an NPL site."

Thomas Huettemann, US EPA, estimating that the marsh crust contamination extends well beyond the boundaries of the navy base and into other marsh lands at the west end of Alameda that have been filled in.

The Development Blinded City Hall's Bar Tab Sobering
Cleanup Cost's for Leaking Tanks at Dale's Bar Avoidable

The City of Alameda is poorly prepared to take over redevelopment of the Alameda Point Superfund Site. The public health and environmental hazards that will be created by the City of Alameda's redevelopment plans are increasingly evident. The most overwhelming evidence is coming from events surrounding the City of Alameda's purchase of Dale's Bar to make way for its community reuse plan of the base.

The development-blinded City Hall failed to perform the standard due diligence to identify environmental liabilities on the property. The city later "discovered" non-compliant underground storage tanks and has been liable for up to $10,000 in fines per day since May. During the first week of December, the underground tanks were removed from Dale's Bar but oil was discovered floating on the groundwater surface. The City now has 45 days to prepare a plan to immediately remove this oil slick from the groundwater surface.

In the meantime, the underground tank excavations at Dale's Bar have been left to flood. Soon the oil will move across the site increasing the cost of cleanup. Underground storage tank cleanup costs average $140,000 per site. That is $140k for a site less than 0.05% of the land area of Alameda Point.

The complete lack of environmental awareness at City Hall will eventually bankrupt the City of Alameda.

Dale's Bar

Question Authority - "With what authority?"

Executive Order 12580 delegates environmental cleanup authority to different federal agencies. This order has been ignored in preparing cleanup documents for the Marsh Crust, which is neither limited to the boundaries of the Navy base, nor is the Navy admitting responsibility for the contamination. As a result the Navy has no legal authority to prepare CERCLA documents, or to propose cleanup measures for the Marsh Crust. Acting without legal authority the Navy is proposing a no action plan that is not based on the results of a remedial investigation required by CERCLA guidance and does not meet the threshold criteria of protecting human health and the environment. Similarly, State Law provides no authority to the City of Alameda to regulate hazardous materials as is proposed by the draft Marsh Crust ordinance. Contact a BCT member and question their legal authority to address the Marsh Crust contamination.

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.

November 1999 Edition
December 15, 1999