Sea-level-rise-projection-San-Francisco-by-Marcea-Ennamorato-and-HyunJu-Chappell-San-Francisco-Public-Press, Buried! , Local News & Views News & Views
Sea level rise as projected by 2100 in San Francisco. “As sea level rises, shallow groundwater near the shore rises with it and can cause flooding, damage infrastructure and mobilize contaminants in the soil.” – Illustration: Marcea Ennamorato and HyunJu Chappell, SF Public Press

Analyzing the June 2022 SF Civil Grand Jury Report on the Shipyard

by Dr. Ahimsa Porter Sumchai

The City and County of San Francisco Civil Grand Jury (CGJ) is a government oversight panel of volunteers who make findings and recommendations based on its investigations. On June 1, 2022, the CGJ issued a sweeping investigation titled “Buried Problems and a Buried Process: The Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in a Time of Climate Change.”

Marie-Harrison-receiving-commendations-from-SF-Board-of-Supervisors-062618-copy-1400x878, Buried! , Local News & Views News & Views
Marie Harrison, pictured here in 2018, testified before the podium of San Francisco Health Commission on July 15, 2008, in protest of a toxic asbestos level of 138,000 fibers detected on May 30, 2008, at the Parcel A construction site. The Department of Public Health hid the lethal exposure from the Bayview Hunters Point residents to aid the Lennar Prop G campaign on the June 3, 2018, ballot – an initiative granting Lennar permission to proceed with construction of 10,000 homes on a federal Superfund site. Shutdown levels at the shipyard project was 16,000 fibers. The health department did not issue a shutdown notice.

“The Civil Grand Jury began this investigation with a question about the potential impact of groundwater rise due to climate change on the future of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. In brief, as sea level rises, shallow groundwater near the shore rises with it and can cause flooding, damage infrastructure and mobilize contaminants in the soil. The jury asked if rising groundwater could pose special risks to health and safety in the low-lying heavily polluted landscape of the Shipyard,” states the report.

Urinary-screening-by-Ahimsa-0422, Buried! , Local News & Views News & Views
Repeat urinary screening conducted on resident living at western fence line in April 2022 documents worsening exposure with lead, aluminum, barium, cadmium, cesium, gadolinium, gallium, platinum, thallium, tin, uranium, copper, manganese, molybdenum, strontium, vanadium, zinc, calcium and potassium in high normal to floridly toxic concentrations.

The comprehensive report by the “citizen scientists” of the jury is applaudable but constrained by lack of jurisdiction over the Navy, federal and state regulators. The jury offered little to remedy or redress exposures faced by the frontline community yet recognized the pivotal role community-based environmental organizations played in formulation of the 2021-2022 report.

Additionally, the June 1 report does not revisit key findings and recommendations made in the 2010 CGJ Report “Shifting Landscapes.”

Hunters Point Biomonitoring Foundation medical researchers, Dr. Ahimsa Porter Sumchai and Dr. James Dahlgren, met with a team of CGJ investigators in 2021 and 2022, contributing original content to the archive of documents referenced in the report, including geospatial mappings of chemicals of concern detected in residents and workers clustered along the radiation contaminated shoreline and western fence line of the federal Superfund system and its industrial landfill.

Groundwater-migration-demonstration, Buried! , Local News & Views News & Views
Groundwater is water found underground in the cracks and spaces in soil, sand and rock.

The civil jury concludes groundwater is expected to rise along with sea level rise and interact with hazardous toxins the Navy plans to leave buried in soil and landfills on the shipyard’s southern shoreline. They further conclude that the “new science” of SLR (sea level rise) identifies new risks not fully analyzed by the City and not incorporated into the shipyard’s development plans by the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure, the Navy and government regulators charged with oversight of the troubled mega development project.

Climate-Change-and-Sea-Level-Rise-report-by-Greenaction-2018, Buried! , Local News & Views News & Views
Vulnerable areas are home to approximately 37,000 residents, 17,100 businesses, 167,300 jobs, new development and a host of vital infrastructure. – Graphic: Greenaction

The jury concludes in Finding 3 that the process governing the shipyard cleanup is extremely technical, burdened by voluminous documents and inhibiting to city leaders and the public who have little patience and understanding of the process.

An analysis of the impacts of sea level rise on the shoreline communities of Bayview Hunters Point is included in the 2020 report of the San Francisco Planning Department. It examined neighborhood profiles in Bayview South/Hunters Point and Bayview North/Islais Creek, projecting an estimated 66 inches of sea level rise by the end of the century.

Where-chronic-flooding-will-occur-in-Bay-Area-by-Division-of-Concerned-Scientists-and-John-Blanchard-SF-Chronicle, Buried! , Local News & Views News & Views
The SF Planning Department projects an estimated 66 inches of sea level rise by the end of the century, most of it affecting Bayview Hunters Point. – Graphic: John Blanchard, SF Chronicle
Rising-groundwater-in-Hunters-Point-from-SF-Chronicle-and-SF-Civil-Grand-Jury-0622, Buried! , Local News & Views News & Views
Contaminated groundwater migration will worsen with rising sea levels with 100% certainty. This is not just a hypothetical scenario for future residents. Shipyard shoreline residents and workers are exposed to contaminated soil and groundwater at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard now! – Graphic: SF Chronicle, SF Civil Grand Jury

The cleanup of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard is addressed through federal actions. The Navy is the lead agency for the site. Management of the site is conducted by a Base Closure Team or “BCT” that includes representatives from the Navy, EPA and CalEPA. 

Bayview-homes-two-blocks-from-shipyard-shoreline-by-Ahimsa-0622-1400x847, Buried! , Local News & Views News & Views
Homes, churches and playgrounds two blocks west of the Shipyard shoreline. – Photo: Dr. Ahimsa Sumchai

In 1993, a Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) was formed that included local, state and federal agency representatives, community group representatives and local residents. Technical assistance grants were awarded to participating community groups.

In September 2009, the Navy dissolved the RAB, and in so doing, barred the City and County of San Francisco from a seat at the negotiating table for the shipyard’s cleanup. In the aftermath of the dissolution of the RAB, the Hunters Point Shipyard development plan was modified to site residential development in a Shipyard South Multiuse District (MUD) originally sited in Parcel E. 

Parcel-A-cross-section-Hunters-Point-Shipyard-1400x1067, Buried! , Local News & Views News & Views
UCSF workers in Building 830 face intersecting pathways of exposure from landfill gas, airborne radioactive fugitive dust, groundwater, fill and bay mud.

The Navy objected to the proposed reuse and the MUD was sited in Parcel G – a rectangular parcel created “cookie cutter” style out of a region of heavily industrialized Parcel D. In October of 2021, strontium-90 was detected by the Navy in concentrations exceeding background, prompting the SF Department of Public Health to issue a press release on Oct. 21, 2021, that reads: “The results of the soils analysis do not appear to pose an immediate public safety hazard … the Navy has stated the levels of strontium-90 detected do not indicate a risk to human health or the environment.”

Of note, Mayor London Breed’s name appears beneath the logo of the City and County of San Francisco in the top left corner of the press release. Mayor London Breed met in her office with top executives of developer Lennar/Five Point two days earlier, on Oct. 19, 2021. 

Radiogenic-cancer-cluster-at-Palou-Avenue-Crisp-Road-entry-by-Ahimsa-0622-1400x910, Buried! , Local News & Views News & Views
Radiogenic cancer cluster sited at the Palou Avenue Crisp Road entry to the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, NRDL Laboratories and industrial landfill, updated June 1, 2022. Note the yellow indicator pins assigned to residents and workers diagnosed with brain and central nervous system tumors and cancers clustered around the Crisp Road entry to the federal Superfund sites and red indicator pins assigned to residents with breast cancer encircling the half-mile perimeter of the base.

The Jury offered no recommendations to protect the exposed and affected community living and working within the one mile buffer zone of the federal Superfund system.

I propose the following:

  • Mount a citywide campaign to educate San Francisco voters to oppose the transfer of the Parcel E-2 shoreline and landfill.
  • Reinstate the democratically-elected Hunters Point Shipyard Restoration Advisory Board – a body that by federal law must adhere to open government statute and seats community stakeholders.
  • Support a moratorium on federal Superfund site excavations at the unfortified western fence line that expose workers and neighbors to radioactive fugitive dust emissions and contaminated groundwater.
  • Challenge Article 31 of the Health Code and the monetary incentive to move earth at a federal Superfund site. Challenge the authority the Director of Health holds in approving construction plans at the shipyard in which 50 cubic yards of soil are disturbed and the revenue stream it generates.
  • Advocate for the establishment of the Hunters Point Community Toxic Registry.

SF Bay View Health and Environmental Science Editor Ahimsa Porter Sumchai, MD, PD, founder and principal investigator for the Hunters Point Community Biomonitoring Program, founding chair of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard Restoration Advisory Board’s Radiological Subcommittee and contributor to the 2005 Draft Historical Radiological Assessment, can be reached at AhimsaPorterSumchaiMD@Comcast.net. Dr. Sumchai is medical director of Golden State MD Health & Wellness, a UCSF and Stanford trained author and researcher, and a member of the UCSF Medical Alumni Association Board of Directors.