Imprisoned on Treasure Island

by Carol Harvey

Liz Washington dedicates her story to Treasure Island mothers suffering Child Protective Services’ human rights abuses.

Liz-Washington-2, Imprisoned on Treasure Island, Local News & Views
Liz Washington

Liz Washington’s Tenderloin apartment door rattled. Bursting in, hands on guns, San Francisco cops grabbed her nursing infant. Liz’ daughter remembers her mom’s screams. “‘Please don’t take my baby!’”

Protecting her kids from gangs, this young Chicago mother relocated to San Francisco.

Liz sought housing help at two nonprofits, who sent police to Liz’ SRO. “You’re homeless, and your kids aren’t in school,” they said.

Liz reported. “It’s illegal to take kids away from their parents because they’re homeless.”

Nine-year-old Sandy, “super-excited” to be attending Rosa Parks, stepped into a black-and-white, “bawling my eyes out.” I had new school supplies. “Why was I being taken from my family?”

Her brother Kenny, 11, “Kept us together.”

At San Francisco General Hospital, a Foster Care Unit employee ordered, “Kiss your mom and send her on her way.”

Bussing home, Liz sobbed. “I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown.”

Visitations were arranged at a CPS office, too public to nurse her son. This trauma, said Liz tearfully, “never goes away. We are not as closely bonded as a mother and child should be.” She miscarried a boy.

“We were told by Child Protective Services we’d have to find a place to live.” In summer 1999, through morning sickness, Liz frantically searched.

Treasure Island appeared on a San Francisco Housing Authority list. Season of Sharing provided funds. CPS arranged for Section 8.

On the bus, a Naval officer said. “‘There’s radiation on the island.’”

If she changed her mind, CPS wouldn’t return her kids.

A month later, Kenny, Sandy and Chris came to the island.

Liz’ youngest, Michael, was born Nov. 25, 2000 .

Soft-spoken mother

Liz is an assertive, focused, calm security professional.

She works hard providing for her children, keeping them housed, fed and clothed, attending to their school and medical needs.

She built a close-knit, loving family, softening the trauma of her oldest son and daughter who witnessed SFPD forcibly separating their mother and baby brother.

Liz’ kids enjoy group games, Monopoly and Uno. They reminisce about funny times.

Liz’ family and friends consider her an exceptionally loving mother.


Even after moving to Treasure Island, Liz never escaped CPS’ ravenous appetite for masterminding abductions of her daughter and sons.

A relentless worker visits the kids’ home and school unannounced. She gathers information from school officials, hospital social workers and doctors.

“I’m here to take your kids.”

In 2005, knocking startled Liz. The children’s father knelt on the living room floor sorting laundry. The large African-American CPS worker knew he would recognize her. When he opened up, four burly cops barreled in, violating Fourth Amendment privacy laws.

Liz said they were grieving a family member’s sudden death.

The worker scowled at the clothes. Court papers said, “Our house was messy,” reported Liz.

Liz realized CPS’ flimsy rationalizations camouflaged a child trafficking scheme, targeting her two youngest sons for foster care and adoption.

“Someone called CPS,” the worker announced.

The officers wrestled Liz’ children out the door, “screaming and crying.”

The courts kept them for two years.

Institutional child abuse

CPS workers deposited Liz’ children with abusive foster parents in unsafe neighborhoods.

CPS placed Liz’ daughter in Oakland in “a really weird neighborhood with a lot of gang-bangers.” Sandy reported, “Can you believe (the foster mother) was dealing in drugs … with some street gang? The white stuff in a plastic bag was not detergent or salt.”

She was deposited in a house with girls “into sex trafficking.”

Growing dread

The Navy decommissioned Treasure Island in 1997. City officials offered low rents and subsidies, encouraging homeless, low and middle income San Franciscans to occupy the former Navy families’ townhouses without mentioning the Navy left deadly chemicals, radioactive material, asbestos, mold and lead in island air, water and soil.

Liz’ family began experiencing chronic fatigue, dizziness, headaches, nosebleeds, insomnia and anxiety attacks. These illnesses provided CPS workers a pretext for accusing Liz of making her children sick and removing them to foster care.

Observing her children’s worsening shortness of breath and gastrointestinal pain, Liz’ alarm and confusion grew.

Around 2009, the press covered the City’s plans to redevelop the island. In 2010 and 2012, after investigative reporters alerted the California Department of Public Health, Navy environmental remediators discovered more pollutants. Liz realized, “That’s why my kids kept getting sick.”

Child Protective Service and the court’s wisest course is to place responsibility for Liz’ family’s respiratory problems and gastrointestinal illnesses where it belongs – onto the polluted water running through the broken, malfunctioning pipes that trade feces, chemicals, radiation and lead beneath Treasure Island’s toxic soil, causing poisonous overflows that generate mold growth.

Liz blames her family’s respiratory problems on breathing, touching or drinking radiation, chemicals and mold riding on dust blown in island winds and her two youngest sons’ acute gastrointestinal disease on poisonous water gushing through kitchen and bathroom taps and showers.

Respiratory pandemic – moldy Treasure Island

Liz’s hand covered her phone. Through muffled chokes, she blurted, “I have bad coughing fits,” continuing for three months.

Her doctor diagnosed acute bronchitis, curable with meds and an inhaler.

Liz and Sandra, her 25-year-old daughter, report all five family members endure the year ‘round “TI cough” – chronic swollen lymph nodes, sinus congestion and infection, shortness of breath, wheezing, colds, throat irritation, runny noses with mucous, and coughing spells.

Kenny, a non-smoker, suffered hacking coughs, sounding like he would “cough up a lung,” reported Sandy.

What caused it?

Mold,” said Sandy.

Four years ago, her youngest brother, Michael, was diagnosed with asthma.

Was being born on the island a factor? “This is a former Naval base. Who knows what they were doing here?” she sighed.

“Kids his age want to run around, ride bikes, play basketball. He shouldn’t have to worry about whether he’ll be out of breath.”

She described her own coughing fits.

“When I’m in San Francisco, I feel good in general. Less tired. I can breathe better.”

Except once.

“Me and mom were walking along Market to the check cashing place near that movie theater that druggies frequent. There was this weird smell – a cross between bad weed and a yucky chemical skunk kinda smell. I started coughing like crazy. It lasted a month or two. It was made worse by constant contact with chemicals, or, that really (moldy) air whenever the pipes act up.”

Moldy island

Some molds are not as benign as green fuzz on bread and cheese. Mold plays an important environmental role, obtaining nutrition from decaying plant material. However, that breakdown produces byproducts called mycotoxins, poisonous wastes dangerous to humans.

Mold-induced health problems

Black mold can cause heart attacks and brain damage.

Many of the following serious toxic mold symptoms are exhibited by Liz Washington and her children, along with other Treasure Islanders who touch, ingest or breathe air filled with black mold spores or report monster mold invasions across exterior facades, interior ceilings and floors, and inside their walls: asthma, fatigue, sinus infections, dark urine, depression and anxiety, diarrhea, dizziness, headaches, long lasting flu-like symptoms, night sweats, nosebleeds, ringing in ears, sleep disorders and insomnia, spitting up mucous, swollen lymph nodes.

Sea level Bay moisture supercharges Treasure Island’s black mold growth. Mold spores slip inside homes through windows, cracks and crevices or on shoes, clothing and pets. Black mold and asbestos clumps saturate insulation and envelop pipes inside homes the U.S. Navy constructed for families. Smoky fungus patches coat building facades.

Centers for Disease Control: Where mold grows

“When mold spores drop on places where there is excessive moisture, such as where leakage may have occurred in roofs, pipes, walls, plant pots or where there has been flooding, they will grow. Wet cellulose materials, including paper and paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, wood and wood products … dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation materials, drywall, carpet, fabric and upholstery commonly support mold growth.”

Overflowing toilet

Liz believes repeated mysterious toilet clogs and deluges through an upstairs bathroom vent provide the major moisture source for mold growth in her first floor kitchen and dining room. She counted at least 10 floods in the downstairs bathroom.

Flooding happens often enough for moisture levels to rise. Inevitably, black, fuzzy mold spots reappear in Liz’ house.

Sandy reported yellow spots dotting the upstairs bathroom ceiling and Liz’ and her two youngest sons’ bedroom ceilings.

A mass of dark mold grew thick on wood in the wall space just inside a vent behind the front door.

Painting over mold is standard remediation for The John Stewart Co., the property managers. Mold regrows inside crawl spaces. Every Treasure Island home where management addresses mold infestation, the fungus returns with a vengeance.

Gastrointestinal disease

One day in May 2013, the social worker phoned. “We’re taking custody of Chris and Michael.”

Liz caught her breath.

Liz’ family endures intractable stomach and lower intestinal pain and constipation. Her sons suffer upper abdominal distress, nausea and vomiting. They experience colonic bleeding, cramping, diarrhea, chronic constipation and obstipation.

Liz thought their dad had accompanied Chris and Michael to school. Instead, he took them to San Francisco General Hospital.

Ordering admission for bowel dis-impaction, the doctor decided the father’s request for a second opinion was refusal of treatment. Though Liz was absent, the CPS worker manipulated the District Court complaint, bundling her with the dad.

The boys were transferred to foster care in Oakland. Liz retrieved them two years later.

Despite a fast food diet, the boys’ stomach aches and constipation dissipated.

Don’t drink the water!

They resumed drinking island water. Their gastrointestinal disease returned.

CPS and medical professionals blame Liz for her sons’ constipation, setting traps signaling their health is low priority. Liz risks losing them if she drops prescribed Miralax, which also causes nausea, abdominal cramping, diarrhea and gas, for larger portions of fruits and vegetables.

Doctors can’t name a cause, using the symptom “chronic constipation” for a diagnosis, refusing Liz’ requests for tests.

Liz believes 15 years drinking polluted water from corroded 70-year-old island pipes resulted in her family’s stomach aches, nausea and constipation and her sons’ gastrointestinal diseases.

She expected island management to provide potable water. For low income mothers, bottled water is “pretty much a luxury.”

Toxic stew

Treasure Island’s 76-year-old potable water and sewer pipes are rusty and cracked. They can easily trade fecal matter, old petroleum, dioxin, DDT, lead, old dry-cleaning fluid, PCBs and 26 kinds of radiation that the Navy’s 56-year-old waste management program released into island soil. These virulent combinations are traded through pipe fissures in the connected network embedded in the 576.7-acre island dirt.

Liz and her neighbors report indelible brown rings in toilets. A deadly stew of brown water in kitchen and bathroom taps predicts pain and illness. A permanent rash broke out on one woman’s back where she stood in gushing shower water.

On May 28 and 29, 2015, the ground trembled. Lennar’s geotechnical engineers sank pulsating shafts 50 feet into fill near the Island Cove Market.

Soil, groundwater and mud stability tests were conducted for island redevelopment. Shaking dirt particles into a tight mass, then pounding down the dirt would prevent liquefaction and high rise collapse.

Stinky drain

For 10 years, “Whenever a smell at a (nearby) park happens, our toilets back up really bad, and whenever the toilets back up really bad, there is that smell at the park,” Liz said. The stink rises from sewer pipes and hangs for days over the park’s northeast corner.

On flushing, Liz’ three toilets’ contents clog in the pipe and the bowl, flooding malodorous brown water onto floors. Bacteria-laden fluid seeps through ceilings and an upstairs bathroom vent into her kitchen and dining room. Dormant airborne spores sprout fuzzy mold on her dampened ceilings and walls.

Bad water and new mold growth trigger dormant respiratory and gastrointestinal problems. Coughing, stomach pains and constipation return with a vengeance.

Treasure-Island-sinkhole-behind-Starburst-Barracks-after-vibro-compaction-0528-2915-by-Sandra-Washington-267x300, Imprisoned on Treasure Island, Local News & Views
This sinkhole appeared behind the Starburst Barracks on Treasure Island after the vibro-compaction on May 28-29, 2015. – Photo: Sandra Washington

On July 1, 2015, following vibro-compaction and boring, Liz reported brown water.

Liz and Sandy walked east down Avenue B from their townhouse to a park two blocks southeast to “a spot where the smell comes from.”

Turning right along Ninth Street from the Starburst Barracks, east around a left turn in the path, there was the drain in a grassy depression.

We crossed Ninth Street east to the overflow lot beside the Starburst Barracks. At either end of a shallow 5-foot-long depression in the asphalt, two new sinkholes had combined.

Following the wooden fence east, toward the vibro-compaction site along a trail of wet earth over obviously leaking pipelines, we stopped half a block from the Island Cove Market. Between Job Corps and the Starburst Barracks sat a third drain in a circular indentation.

Two weeks after vibro-compaction, Sandy photographed a sink-hole next to this drain, encircled with yellow police tape. “Broken pipes,” was spray painted in white beside the cavity. Maintenance concealed this previously documented sinkhole with asphalt.


Did Lennar’s vibro-compaction tests pollute potable water?

Residents reported fractured pipelines, sinkholes, cave-ins and sewage upsurges traversing the entire island, east to west from the Island Cove Market past the Starburst Barracks, the Ninth Street park, Liz’ Avenue B home, the old elementary school playground. Pipes malfunctioned. Smelly brown chocolate ooze exploded from faucets, toilets, shower heads and electrical outlets at Kathryn Lundgren’s 1201-B Bayside Drive townhouse.

On Monday, July 12, Quinn Lundgren photographed men in a trench, replacing old terra cotta “lateral” pipes.

CPS uses CAPTA to traffic in children

Liz’ family was excited about attending the auto show. A woman appeared outside. Faces fell. The social worker!

Liz thought. “She’ll refuse to leave.” But, if she didn’t let her in, the kids might be taken.

CPS judged and shamed a low-income mother, accusing her of medically neglecting her son’s gastrointestinal diseases. Despite a litany of weak excuses for traumatic child thefts, Liz courageously kept her family together, raising independent, intelligent, peaceful offspring.

The most recent insult was the CPS worker’s abrupt May 1, 2013, abduction of Liz’ two youngest sons.

These acts were perpetrated under CAPTA, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, federal legislation originally intended to address child abuse and neglect.

Rather than helping families, the legislation enables a national, state and county system of paid government agents to utilize the courts to rip kids away from parents and adopt children out to thieves and liars who profit financially from monthly foster care and adoption subsidy payments. One of these agents stood outside Liz Washington’s door.

The court-supported CPS child-trafficking cartel’s targets for foster care and ultimate adoption are people they consider vulnerable – largely Black, Brown, and White impoverished mothers who can’t buy themselves out of these inhumane snarls.

Parents need family and friends to come to their aid with community letter-writing and fundraising to cover fees for private lawyers savvy in navigating CPS.

Workers watch their behavior and judges extend respect to families who arrive with paid attorneys.


The judge, the court appointed attorney, the CPS worker, her supervisor, foster parents and adoption agencies all make money. Adoptive parents pay big bucks for kids.

Liz fired her court-appointed lawyer for “not representing me. He was going along with anything the social worker said.”

Liz verified “the government funds CPS (for) as many families as the state can get. I’ve noticed the spike on kids that get taken (at) the end of the fiscal year.”

The supervisor moves federal money from the state into the county.

Her worker’s supervisor, who Liz says is “not a nice woman,” may tell the social worker to return to the home with police and grab the children.

Workers justify their supervisor’s job by drawing federal funding into the county with more foster care placements.

Social workers receive a “roughly $2,000 to $5,000” bonus per adoption, testified Liz.

“They get a lot of money for babies, a decent amount for kids 4 to 6 years, but not so much for teenagers.” They will lie in court papers.

Paid by the government to warehouse children, some foster parents hold hostages.

Mothers are encouraged to write the judge a “Statement of Objections and Corrections,” rebutting the worker’s lies, appending tapes, photos, other documentation. This information must be introduced before filing an appeal.

On and on

A recent dismissal didn’t end Liz’ case. The courts’ complicity with CPS inspires Liz’ worst fear: CAPTA may become CAPTURE of her two youngest sons into the foster care and adoption mill.

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