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Treasure Island is toxic: an introduction

March 4, 2014

by Carol Harvey

Is my child safe playing on Treasure Island?

Seanda, a Treasure Island mother, questions Keith Forman, Navy environmental coordinator, about whether her young daughter is safe playing on Treasure Island, especially after Saul Bloom, executive director of ARC Ecology (he does not work for the Navy), stated in a San Francisco Chronicle news story that the island is so toxic he wouldn’t let his children go there to play.

Treasure Island RAB meeting Seanda speaks 0214 by Carol Harvey
Treasure Island resident Seanda, mother of a 12-year-old daughter, speaks out at a RAB (Restoration Advisory Board) meeting, where the Navy is supposed to report its progress on detoxifying the island. She asks why she should trust Navy assurances that living on the island poses no danger when someone as knowledgeable as Saul Bloom is reported by the Chronicle to have said he wouldn’t let his children play there. – Video frame: Carol Harvey
Additionally, children have reported getting sick after contact with a large blue play structure. This mother wants to know why, if the Navy can take out entire blocks to do remediation, can’t it remove one apparently toxic structure.

Marisa Lagos writes in the Chronicle article, “Is Treasure Island Toxic? Residents’ Worries Grow”: “As the extent of contamination – radiological and otherwise – has become more evident, and the uses of Treasure Island increased, (Bloom’s) concern has grown, he said. Now, thousands of people attend concerts and sporting and other events there every year, go to the wineries that have set up shop, and visit the yacht club and dozens of other businesses located on the island. He wouldn’t let his kids play there, he said.”

Navy subcontractor breaks silence about radiation contamination at Treasure Island – Video: NBC Bay Area

Like many Treasure Island residents, Kathryn Lundgren, her husband and their three children have been afflicted with worrisome health effects that, over time, they have come to suspect are attributable to at least 14 radioactive elements (or radionuclides), more than 26 toxic chemicals and other dangerous pollutants deposited on the U.S. Navy’s World War II training base.

Just across San Francisco Bay at the Hunters Point Shipyard, the Navy continues to conduct a toxic cleanup from this national Superfund site of a similar array of dangerous radioactive materials and chemicals. Lennar’s massive earthmoving a few years ago kicked up huge amounts of dust carrying particulate matter and toxins airborne. Is it any surprise that many BVHP residents have been documented to be stricken with the same constellation of respiratory illnesses and cancers currently manifesting in their Treasure Island neighbors?

It is well known that after the megaton atom bomb blasts at Bikini atoll, warships saturated with radioactivity docked at both locations, showering the air, infiltrating the water, and infusing into the soil health-destroying poisons under and around residences where unsuspecting African-American and other poor people reside. Treasure Island residents characteristically present with the same panoply of radiation sickness symptoms displayed in Bikini atoll dwellers: itchiness, sore skin, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, burning eyes and swelling of the extremities. Thirteen-year-old Praise Lundgren, for example, has been diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus, which includes intermittent leg-swelling that her mother reports looks “like two legs put together.”

Due to San Francisco’s housing crunch, Treasure Island became a repository for low-income families and people at risk of homelessness. “Squatters” regularly find night time shelter in Treasure Island’s radioactive buildings. Consequently, the Navy’s ad nauseam public reassurances to largely poor and people of color at Treasure Island that no dangerous levels of radioactivity now exist imparts a suspicious race and class taint to its minimizations and denials.

Carol Harvey is a San Francisco political journalist specializing in human rights and civil rights. She can be reached at carolharveysf@yahoo.com.

 

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