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The strange silence of Rep. Pelosi and Sen. Feinstein over the $1 billion US fraud scandal with Tetra Tech at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard

April 12, 2018

by Steve Zeltzer, KPFA WorkWeek Radio

Tetra Tech whistleblowers and supporters protest the fraudulent cleanup of radiation and other deadly contaminants at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard on June 30, 2017. – Photo: Labor Video Project

Over $1 billion has been spent by the federal government since 2004 to clean up and remediate one of the most highly toxic and radioactive sites in the U.S., the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco. This Superfund site was home for decades, 1946-1969, to the Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory, and large Navy warships were towed there from the Pacific, where they had been placed close to nuclear tests.

They were then sandblasted at the shipyard under a plan to “decontaminate” these ships. Under immense political pressure, including reported coercion from Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Congresswomen Nancy Pelosi, the U.S. Navy agreed to turn over the site to the City and its master developer Lennar for development in 2004, and both powerful San Francisco politicians used their political muscle to allocate eventually hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funds for the cleanup of radiation and toxic chemicals.

Over $1 billion has been spent by the federal government since 2004 to clean up and remediate one of the most highly toxic and radioactive sites in the U.S., the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco.

A large part of the remediation was done by Tetra Tech, one of the largest remediation companies in the world, with $2.6 billion in revenue in 2016. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been paid to Tetra Tech for testing and moving the highly contaminated soil.

As the project developed, many community activists and environmentalists charged that the project was not being done properly. Dr. Ahimsa Porter Sumchai and Dr. Ray Tomkins, speaking on behalf of the Bayview Hunters Point community, have spent decades investigating the development and demanding that proper testing take place at the site.

One of the first critical questions about the testing on the site came from Test America Quality Assurance Manager Michael Madry. He noticed that the tests by the company on asbestos were coming back 100 percent negative.

This was statistically impossible, and he and another manager learned that the company had reduced the testing from 15 minutes to 50 seconds by using a game pad. When he raised the issue with the company, he was bullied, harassed and illegally fired.

As the project developed, many community activists and environmentalists charged that the project was not being done properly.

He went to the federal Whistleblower Protection Program (WPP), where federal investigator and lawyer Darrell Whitman investigated and determined that there should be a merit determination, that he indeed had been terminated for making health and safety complaints.

Madry, who was conducting tests on both Hunters Point Naval Shipyard and Treasure Island, provided reports of the falsified testing to Congresswomen Pelosi and Sen. Diane Feinstein as well to the Environmental Protection Agency. Neither politician contacted him about the serious falsification of work.

After federal OSHA investigator Darrell Whitman completed his report, he was told to rewrite it by his boss, Josh Paul, who is also a lawyer. Falsifying such a report is a felony under the law.

What happened to federal OSHA official Whitman is that he became the target of workplace bullying for this report and another OSHA investigation he was conducting. He was later terminated along with all the other lawyers at the Region 9 Whistleblower Protection Program.

Madry, who was conducting tests on both Hunters Point Naval Shipyard and Treasure Island, provided reports of the falsified testing to Congresswomen Pelosi and Sen. Diane Feinstein as well to the Environmental Protection Agency. Neither politician contacted him about the serious falsification of work.

When Whitman provided the documents to Sen. Feinstein, she responded that she had received them and wanted to talk to him, but she never came through.

The largest group of whistleblowers to come forward about the falsification of testing at the Hunters Point Shipyard and Treasure Island were health and safety inspectors at Tetra Tech. They reported that the company was actually doing improper testing and illegal removal of material without proper documentation. They were bullied, harassed and terminated by Tetra Tech.

This led to a number of reports by NBC Bay Area Investigates and even the San Francisco Chronicle after the workers, with their lawyer, Dave Anton, held a press conference. District Attorney George Gascón’s office even called and attorney Anton met with him once, but he never called back.

The largest group of whistleblowers to come forward about the falsification of testing at the Hunters Point Shipyard and Treasure Island were health and safety inspectors at Tetra Tech.

In the midst of this growing controversy, the U.S. Navy hired consultants to investigate the testing results by Tetra Tech. In a report by Kathryn A. Higley of Radioecology Research, the consultants said there was massive fraud by Tetra Tech in the testing at the Hunter Point Naval Shipyard.

The report said:

  • When “sufficiently low levels of contamination were not obtained,” Tetra Tech would fetch samples from a “different area known to have lower radioactivity, and reported as having come from the location being investigated”;
  • When Tetra Tech found samples or data dirtier or more radioactive than EPA-mandated levels of safety, they were discarded;
  • Instead of sampling areas with known radioactivity, they would collect samples from nearby areas and pass those off as coming from the radioactive location;
  • When low levels of contamination were not “obtained,” they would simply “move 5 to 10 feet in another direction” to collect clean dirt;
  • Machines used to screen material were run at a speed too fast to detect radiation;
  • And soil known to be dirty was blocked from being sent to the offsite lab for testing.

The question today is why, after this wide publicity about the falsification of testing by Tetra Tech and the retaliation against numerous health and safety whistleblowers, there has been complete and total silence by Congresswoman Pelosi and Sen. Feinstein?

Does this mean that they are in fact part of the cover-up and fraud on the U.S. government because they have personal financial connections to this development?

Congresswomen Pelosi’s nephew Laurence Pelosi, who is also a cousin of then-Mayor Gavin Newsom, was director of acquisitions from January 2002 through March of 2005 for Florida-based Lennar, the City’s master developer for both naval bases, the Hunters Point Shipyard and Treasure Island.

The question today is why, after this wide publicity about the falsification of testing by Tetra Tech and the retaliation against numerous health and safety whistleblowers, there has been complete and total silence by Congresswoman Pelosi and Sen. Feinstein?

In November of 2008, Lennar was facing imminent bankruptcy after spending over $5 million – or $50 per vote – to pass Proposition G, a measure designed to gain support of the San Francisco electorate for Lennar’s proposed Hunters Point Shipyard-Candlestick Park Conceptual Plan and its transfers of state and federal lands. Lennar’s LEN stocks sank to $3.60 per share despite restructuring and partnership with CB Richard Ellis, headed by Richard Blum, husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, owner of Perini Construction and principle sponsor of the Lennar-funded Proposition G campaign to develop the site.

On March 20, 2018, at Treasure Island, a meeting was convened by the U.S. Navy and run by the same Tetra Tech to report on the “cleanup” of the island. Again, the question has to be asked why, after all this massive fraud and illegal retaliation against whistleblowers, is this same company, Tetra Tech, still in charge of this remediation. Maybe Sen. Feinstein and Congresswomen Pelosi have some answer to these questions.

Steve Zeltzer and the Labor Video Project can be reached at lvpsf@igc.org.

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