by Barry Hermanson
In June, the City and County of San Francisco Civil Grand Jury released its report “Buried Problems and a Buried Process: The Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in a Time of Climate Change.” The report starts with a summary, which begins:
“The Hunters Point Naval Shipyard is a Superfund site on the southeastern shore of San Francisco. The Navy, overseen by EPA and state regulators, has been cleaning up radiological and chemical contamination in the Shipyard for over 30 years. As the cleanup is completed and approved, the Navy has agreed to transfer the property to the City in stages to create San Francisco’s biggest housing development. A developer, working with the San Francisco Office of Community Infrastructure and Investment, plans to build thousands of homes at the Shipyard, along with office towers, parks, a school and millions of feet of commercial space.”
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors Government Audit and Oversight Committee held a hearing on Sept. 15 to review the report. Watch or listen to the recording of the hearing here: https://sanfrancisco.granicus.com/player/clip/42036?view_id=11&redirect=true&h=e4fe509166c13873fd187722672bd336.
President of the Board Supervisor Shamman Walton and Supervisor Connie Chan called for the hearing. Supervisor Walton began by stating the Navy and EPA refused to participate in the hearing. “I want to make it clear that the number one goal for the shipyard has to be and should be 100% complete cleanup.” This should be done before “the transfer of any land to the City.” “We need our federal leaders and the Navy to step up and take full responsibility on the Shipyard.”
Jeff Weitzel, a member of the Civil Grand Jury, included this statement as part of his presentation: “In the Hunters Point Shipyard, shallow groundwater rising with sea level rising and residual hazardous substances pose serious but poorly understood risks that should concern the City and County of San Francisco, the Navy, future developers, future property owners, and future residents.”
He emphasized, “Rising groundwater can destroy infrastructure and bring buried poison into contact with human beings.”
“I want to make it clear that the number one goal for the shipyard has to be and should be 100% complete cleanup.” This should be done before “the transfer of any land to the City.” – Supervisor Shamann Walton
Instead of sending representatives, the Navy and the EPA provided statements to be read into the public record. When Supervisor Chan asked if the City can subpoena federal agencies, Assistant City Attorney Anne Pearson said she would get back to the committee with the answer.
A major concern of Supervisors Walton, Chan and Committee Chair Dean Preston, is that there be independent testing of the Shipyard cleanup. Because test results have been falsified in the past, the community doesn’t have confidence in the work of the Navy, its contractors or the EPA.
During public comment, Arianne Harrison of the Marie Harrison Community Foundation said: “We don’t feel that the Department of Public Health has actually been guarding our health. … We have the highest rate of respiratory disease and cancer in the country right there in the Bayview Hunters Point. … For myself, personally, according to my own testing, I tested very high for uranium and plutonium and I think this body needs to know that.”
Dr. Ahimsa Sumchai of the independent Hunters Point Biomonitoring Program said: “The irrefutable evidence is mounting that there is human exposure to radioactive and carcinogenic heavy metals and chemicals of concern in Proposition 65 listed chemicals that cause cancer.” She ended her comments by requesting the reinstatement of the Hunters Point Shipyard Restoration Advisory Board.
In directing part of his comments to Supervisor Walton, Bradley Angel, representing GreenAction for Health and Environmental Justice, thanked him for calling for 100% cleanup. “You are really the first elected official I’ve heard in all of these years acknowledge what needs to be done and what the community has wanted. So, thank you so much.”
“The plan has never been for a full cleanup,” Angel continued. “Yet government agencies pretended that was the plan … The plan is to leave significant amounts of radioactive and toxic waste buried at the shoreline despite rising sea levels and rising groundwater, and there will be high levels of those contaminated materials left.” The plan “is to cap it. It is a ticking time bomb.”
“You are really the first elected official I’ve heard in all of these years acknowledge what needs to be done and what the community has wanted. So, thank you so much.” – Bradley Angel, Greenaction
After the end of public comment, in response to a question from Supervisor Preston, Tom Paulino from the mayor’s office said: “The mayor’s priority is that there is a 100% cleanup.”
If this is true, why did the mayor disagree with the recommendations from the Grand Jury?
Preston noted there were “seven recommendations from the Civil Grand Jury and seven responses from the Mayor’s Office that the City will not implement them.
Supervisor Walton closed the hearing with these comments:
“There are people who think we should trust the Navy. These are the same people who hired Tetra Tech, who falsified testing samples, who falsified documentation for testing samples on the Shipyard. The reality that the trust has been long gone between the community and the Navy is something people don’t really take into account when we have conversations about what has taken place at the Shipyard.
“I do also want to reiterate to the community, to everyone, that without 100% cleanup, there is no transfer of land. That is something we do have control over on the Board of Supervisors.”
Thank you, Supervisor Walton, for calling for the hearing. You may be the first elected official to acknowledge what needs to be done. From the comments and questions by Supervisors Chan and Preston you have allies on the Board of Supervisors. Without 100% cleanup, there is no transfer of land.
The hearing will be continued at the next meeting on Sept. 29.
Barry Hermanson is a member of the San Francisco Green Party and a former small business owner. Contact him at Barry@Hermansons.com or 415-255-9494.