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POWER’s campaign to clean up dirty developers

January 26, 2010

Rosemary Cambra, a renowned leader of the Muwekma Ohlone, whose lands included the Candlestick Point-Hunters Point Shipyard area covered by Lennar’s Environmental Impact Report, speaks at a Jan. 12 press conference organized by POWER. The Ohlone are demanding their legal right to participate in decisions about development, especially of their sacred sites. – Photo: Francisco Da Costa
On Tuesday, Jan. 12, POWER leaders and allies turned in written comments in response to Lennar’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for their proposed development on the Hunters Point Shipyard and Candlestick Point. After nearly two months of reading, study, research and discussion of the over 4,000-page document, we focused on six core issues that are at stake in the environmental review process. These include the carcinogens and radiological contamination at the Shipyard; the dangers of liquefaction; climate change and sea level rise; transportation impacts from the proposed development; the connection of the development to the existing community; and the preservation of historic Ohlone sites.

That same day, POWER (People Organized to Win Employment Rights) helped to organize a press conference with several representatives from the Ohlone nation, the International Indian Treaty Council, the American Indian Movement West, United Native Americans, the Ohlone Profiles Project and Indian People Organized for Change. We support the Ohlone demands that the San Francisco Planning Department follow the law and contact Ohlone representatives to ensure the preservation of 16 historic indigenous ceremonial and burial sites affected by Lennar’s proposed development.

What’s next? POWER’s Bayview Project is launching a mass media campaign to win broad public support for the environmental justice struggle of Bayview families. We are gearing up for late spring when the Planning Department will release their responses to our comments and begin moving the Candlestick Point-Hunters Point Shipyard project toward the public hearing and approval process before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

The following comments were facilitated by Technical Assistance Services for Communities (TASC), a program that provides independent educational and technical assistance to communities impacted by Superfund sites.

Comments on Candlestick Point-Hunters Point Shipyard Phase II Development Plan Project Draft Environmental Impact Report

by Wilma Subra, Ph.D.

The following are comments prepared after a review of the Candlestick Point-Hunters Point Shipyard Phase II Development Plan Project Draft Environmental Impact Report, primarily Section III.K. Hazards and Hazardous Materials.

Early transfer

The Navy is proposing to transfer ownership and control of the property at Hunters Point Shipyard (HPS) Phase II portion to the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency on an early transfer basis before remedial activities are completed. The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency can then transfer the remedial obligations to Project Applicants [Lennar]. This will ultimately result in construction of the proposed redevelopment and occupancy of redevelopment structures and units while remediation activities are still ongoing at HPS Phase II.

The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency would be responsible for remedial activities from the time of transfer under the terms of the Early Transfer Cooperative Agreement. If the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency transfers ownership to a Project Applicant, the Project Applicant would then be responsible for the remaining remediation under an Administrative Order on Consent.

The early transfer of property in HPS Phase II requires that prior to transfer of the property that is not completely remediated, the Navy must “insure that the property is suitable for the intended use and consistent with protection of human health and the environment.” In addition, the Navy has to complete all radiological cleanup activities on each parcel in HPS Phase II and obtain approved Record of Decisions (RODs) for each parcel prior to transfer. Responsibility for remedial work not performed prior to the transfer would become the responsibility of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency and/or Project Applicant. Navy funds would be provided to complete the Navy’s remediation obligations. The Navy retains ultimate responsibility for the site remediation.

Radiological cleanup activities are ongoing at a number of parcels of HPS Phase II. Site investigations and ecological assessments are ongoing at a number of parcels in HPS Phase II.

Parcel B had an amended ROD finalized in February 2009. The draft ROD for parcels C and UC-2 were to be issued in December 2009 and the final RODs are proposed to be signed within 2010.

The ROD for Parcel D (D-1, D-2, G and UC-1) was issued in 2009. The draft Proposed Plan and draft ROD for Parcels E and E2 are expected in the 2010-2011 time frame. Parcel F is anticipated to have a draft Proposed Plan and draft ROD issued in 2012 or 2013. On page III.K-81, the text states that the RODs are expected to be final for all parcels of HPS Phase II by summer 2012. This does not agree with the text for Parcel F (page III.K-26), which indicates a draft ROD is anticipated to be issued in 2012 or 2013. This time frame for the draft ROD, not the final ROD, is based on information from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) data from Hunters Point Naval Shipyard Parcel F and is later than the date presented on page III.K-81.

If the parcels are transferred immediately after the RODs are finalized, then the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency and/or Project Applicant will be responsible for developing the Remedial Design document, having the document reviewed and approved, and conducting the Remedial Actions required in the ROD. The remedial work could be extensive on each parcel.

The remedial work being conducted by contractors of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency and the Project Applicant will be occurring at the same time and in close proximity to redevelopment work being performed by contractors of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency and Project Applicant. The potential exists to contaminate on-site workers constructing redevelopment units, on-site occupants of the redevelopment units and school students, teachers, staff and visitors at adjacent elementary schools.

In addition, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversight of remedial actions being performed by contractors for the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency and Project Applicants will require additional agency resources and could result in less oversight than is currently occurring with the Navy being responsible for the remedial actions.

Areas of concern with early transfer

1. Exposure of construction workers engaged in redevelopment activities.

2. Exposure of occupants in the redeveloped locations and sites.

3. Exposure to school students, staff, teachers and visitors at Bret Harte Elementary School and Muhammad University of Islam elementary school while remedial activities are ongoing.

4. Potential lack of adequate oversight of San Francisco Redevelopment Agency and Project Applicants contractors performing remedial activities in place of Navy contractors under the oversight of EPA. This could lead to multiple entities with multiple contractors performing remedial activities that could lead to fragmented oversight and result in inadequate remedial activities and potential environmental and human health exposures.

Hazardous materials use

The text indicates that hazardous materials, their “use, storage and disposal, are subject to numerous laws and regulations. In most cases, the laws and regulations pertaining to hazardous materials management are sufficient to minimize risks to human health and the environment, except where site-specific conditions warrant additional considerations.”

In the situations referred to as “most cases,” there is a lack of requirements for adequate oversight and enforcement of the laws and regulations. In the situations referred to as “site-specific conditions” warranting additional considerations, the issues of oversight and enforcement are also lacking. The lack of enforcement of the laws and regulations can result in substantial impacts to human health and the environment. In the case of Hunters Point Shipyard, the issues associated with enforcement are critical to the protection of human health and the environment.

Hazardous contaminants

According to the Environmental Impact Report, “chemicals and radioactive materials are present in soil and groundwater in various locations throughout Hunters Point Shipyard Phase II at levels that require remediation.” The chemicals contaminating Hunters Point Shipyard Phase II consist of radionuclides, volatile organic compounds (VOC: benzene, carbon tetrachloride, chloroform, naphthalene, tetrachloroethane and others), semi-volatile organic compounds, petroleum hydrocarbons, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), pesticides, heavy metals (arsenic, beryllium, chromium, chromium VI, lead, manganese, mercury and nickel) and asbestos. The bay fill material at Candlestick Point contains hydrocarbons, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, semi-volatile organic compounds, PCBs, chlorinated pesticides, heavy metals (chromium VI, copper, lead, mercury, nickel and zinc) and asbestos.

According to the Environmental Impact Report, institutional controls are “expected to be imposed at most or all areas of HPS Phase II after remediation is complete.” The institutional controls are required in areas where residual levels of hazardous materials remain on the property after remediation. The Candlestick Point area will also have institutional control restrictions due to “the ubiquitous nature of low levels of hazardous materials in Bay Fill that make it infeasible to remediate all of those materials.”

Concerns exist about adequate notification and education of residents, workers and visitors to the site of the restrictions and conditions contained in the institutional controls. In addition, the question of adequacy of enforcement of the institutional control conditions by the oversight agencies also raises concerns.

There is the potential to encounter previously unidentified hazardous materials during excavation for remediation or redevelopment construction activities. The potential exists that the hazardous waste materials will negatively impact the human health of workers, community members and school students, teachers and staff and the environment. This issue could be addressed in the Environmental Impact Report.

According to the Environmental Impact Report, “development and occupancy of some portions of the Project would occur at the same time as demolition and construction would occur in other portions of the Project site. The Environmental Impact Report contends that “relatively few individuals would be exposed to the potential contaminated materials during the initial construction” phase of redevelopment. However, “during later periods of construction … an increasingly greater number of people could be affected by construction activities involving the disturbance of contaminated soils or groundwater.” “This could be a particular issue in the residential portions of HPS Phase II where construction in contaminated soils may occur near occupied residential units.”

Exposure of occupants on the site to hazardous materials remaining on the site after remediation and exposure of the occupants to hazardous materials from demolition and construction activities in the areas occupied by individuals in the developed units is of great concern. Site remediation occurring at the same time as early transfer, redevelopment and occupancy may lead to unacceptable exposure of occupants to hazardous materials disturbed by remedial activities and construction activities.

Schools within one quarter mile of Hunters Point Shipyard

The Muhammad University of Islam (MUI), a year-round elementary school, is located adjacent to the Hillside portion of HPS Phase I. It is within one quarter mile of the westernmost portion of the project boundary. “Demolition or renovation of existing structures in HPS Phase II could result in potential exposure of students, teachers, staff and visitors at MUI to hazardous building materials during construction, without proper abatement procedures.”

Site remediation occurring at the same time as early transfer, redevelopment and occupancy may lead to unacceptable exposure of occupants to hazardous materials disturbed by remedial activities and construction activities.

The Bret Harte Elementary School is within one quarter mile of the Alice Griffith public housing development. Demolition or renovation at the Alice Griffith public housing development could “result in potential exposure of students, teachers, staff and visitors at the school to hazardous building materials during construction, without proper abatement procedures.”

According to the Environmental Impact Report, “to reduce the potential for the school sites to be exposed to hazardous air emissions, the Project would comply with regulations and guidelines pertaining to abatement of and protection from exposure to asbestos and lead.” The school sites are vulnerable to the air emissions and totally dependent on the contractors of the Navy, San Francisco Redevelopment Agency and Project Applicants to comply with the regulations and guidelines and the oversight agencies to ensure compliance with the regulations and guidelines so that the health of students, teachers, staff and visitors is protected.

The Environmental Impact Report could detail a mechanism for immediate notification of the two schools of any failures of the contractors on Candlestick Point and HPS Phase II to comply with the regulations and guidelines and also to advise the schools of measures that can be taken to protect the health of the students, teachers, staff and visitors. A notification mechanism would greatly assist in human health protection at the two schools.

Need for additional procedures

The Environmental Impact Report did not evaluate and assess the cumulative impacts of exposure to human and ecological receptors and the environment as a result of exposure to hydrocarbons, volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds, PCBs, pesticides, heavy metals, asbestos and radionuclides.

The Environmental Impact Report also did not establish a mechanism for notification and education of community members and school students, teachers, staff and visitors occupying the property adjacent to the site about the proper precautions and procedures to avoid and reduce their exposure to hazardous materials from remedial and redevelopment activities ongoing at the site.

The Environmental Impact Report also did not develop and provide for dissemination of information on institutional controls and exposure avoidance mechanisms for new occupants on the site, workers constructing development units on the site, and shoppers, workers and visitors at business units on the site. The redevelopment and utilization of the site while site remediation is still underway has the potential to expose members of the public to hazardous materials being remediated. In addition, even after the site remediation is complete, the site will still contain hazardous materials under the surface of the site. Individuals living, working and visiting the site must be aware of the situation and understand the requirements to prevent exposure to the hazardous materials remaining on the site.

The Environmental Impact Report did not evaluate and assess the cumulative impacts of exposure to human and ecological receptors and the environment as a result of exposure to hydrocarbons, volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds, PCBs, pesticides, heavy metals, asbestos and radionuclides.

Finally, the Environmental Impact Report did not provide for adequate oversight and enforcement of the terms of the Early Transfer Cooperative Agreement, Administrative Orders on Consent, and the RODs and Remedial Designs for each parcel on the Candlestick Point and HPS Phase II sites. This lack of adequate oversight and enforcement could result in exposure of humans and the environment to hazardous materials on the sites and potentially flawed remedies being implemented.

Contact information

TASC Technical Advisor Wilma Subra, Ph.D., (337) 367-2216, subracom@aol.com

E² Inc. Project Manager Michael J. Lythcott, (732) 617-2076, mlythcott@e2inc.com

E² Inc. Work Assignment Manager Krissy Russell-Hedstrom, Ph.D., (719) 256-5261, krissy@e2inc.com

Who is Dr. Subra?

“For two decades, Wilma Subra, a chemist by trade and environmental crusader by reputation, has helped more than 800 communities – many of them poor towns along the Mississippi River – take on or fend off polluters,” reports the Associated Press in a story dated Oct. 21, 2001. “‘She’s like a champion when she goes into a community,’ says Marylee Orr, head of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, an umbrella of grass-roots groups. ‘She’s larger than life.’

“She is a scientist who has lectured at Harvard, testified before Congress, helped draft environmental laws, consulted on cancer clusters and toxic spills, fought sugar cane growers and landfill operators – and, in return, joined the elite club of MacArthur Foundation ‘genius’ grant recipients.

“Subra says one of the most persistent problems she has faced has been environmental racism – a tendency for polluting industries to locate in poor, minority areas where they think residents won’t put up a fight.”

Dr. Subra’s report was written pursuant to Technical Assistance Services for Communities Contract No. EP-W-07-059, TASC WA No. TASC-2-R9, Technical Directive No. TASC-2-Region 9 Bay View Hunters Point-14. Contact POWER, People Organized to Win Employment Rights, through their website, http://www.peopleorganized.org.

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