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Four brave Treasure Islanders who've spoken out about the radiation and other toxins sickening residents have learned they face swift retaliation engineered by the powers-that-be. Mitchell Herrington lived on Treasure Island from 1999 to 2013, when he was harassed off the island by eviction. During his tenancy, Mitchell lived with a roommate who worked for Shaw Environmental. The fact that this Shaw employee had to be protected by a hooded hazmat suit suggested the serious danger of contamination present in his cleanup zone work.
The truth about the radiation and chemicals that poison Treasure Island has been deliberately hidden from view since 1941, when the Navy began using the island as a trash dump. To conceal the extent of the toxicity and the poisoning of many sailors and civilians, recent plans to redevelop the island have required powerful players to shroud activities there in an even thicker fog than the mist that daily crawls under the Golden Gate Bridge.
We read with amazement Matier and Ross’ announcement in the Sunday, May 15, Chronicle that San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee is “in talks with George Lucas” about “housing his collection of illustrative art and Hollywood memorabilia” on “a site already approved for redevelopment on Treasure Island.” The genius who conceived the “Star Wars” saga must not yet know that the place is thoroughly saturated with weapons grade chemicals and radioisotopes with half-lives of never, like plutonium and cesium 137, and that the Navy is not doing a bang-up job of digging the poisonous stuff out.
On May 29, 2015, on the Golden Gate Bridge side of Treasure Island, smelly brown chocolate ooze began to gush from the Lundgren family’s 1201-B Bayside Drive faucets. The other side of the island had just trembled. Between the Job Corps grounds and the San Francisco Bay Bridge, Lennar Corp. engineers had penetrated 50 feet of soil with huge vibrating bores.
Common wisdom holds that Island authorities have simply abandoned the buildings and infrastructure to crumble until they are razed during the redevelopment build-out phase, which will not start until 2015 and could last over a decade. In the process, they seem also to have abandoned the low-income people they enticed to the island, who are providing rent and securing the infrastructure until the island can be rebuilt for rich condo owners.
Generations of Treasure Island residents are living with radiation from the Navy ships exposed to the atomic bomb tests at Bikini in the South Pacific, which were brought to San Francisco to see if they could be cleaned. Though the Navy has the data, it never conducted longitudinal studies of adults and children it impacted with radioactivity. Help the people of Treasure Island win justice at the RAB meeting Tuesday, Aug. 19, 7-9 p.m., Casa de la Vista, 191 Avenue of the Palms, Treasure Island.
After working vigilantly to protect her kids from asbestos by moving out of an asbestos-filled home in Bayview Hunters Point onto Treasure Island, Sandy Agee found she had literally jumped from the frying pan into the fire. At this writing, Sandy and two of her children are exhibiting worrisome physical symptoms they developed only after moving to the island. Sandy’s blood tests came back positive for “thyroid problems.”
Gentile, soft-spoken Sandy Agee represents a group of African-American Bayview Hunters Point residents who thought they escaped radiation and chemicals that the Navy dumped at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, turning it into one of the nation’s most radioactive EPA Superfund sites. They discovered the Navy also carpeted their refuge, Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay.
Whistleblowers at the Hunters Point Shipyard told a reporter, “I wouldn’t feel comfortable living there having a yard where I could grow a garden. Absolutely not." “I wouldn’t go there, I wouldn’t take my grandchildren there, I wouldn’t walk my dog there.” A Treasure Island whistleblower said, “My job is to protect people and the environment, and it’s just not getting done.”
Like all residents on Treasure Island, a man-made landform drenched in water, heat and humidity, wherever Damian Ochoa moves in John Stewart's market rate “Villages,” mold spores float stealthily in the air behind him. Three years ago these spores “mushroomed” into spotty patches in his immaculate home. But Damian is winning. He shows ways that renters can get what they want from a realtor or manager.
The City of San Francisco appears to be launching a discriminatory retaliatory eviction targeting its Treasure Island toxin whistleblower, Kathryn Lundgren, and her family. Lundgren, mother of three teens, has repeatedly sounded the alarm outing the City and the Navy for collusion in neglecting to warn her and her unsuspecting neighbors that Treasure Island is a radioactive dumpsite saturated with chemicals, toxic mold, asbestos and lead.
Art student Maria Johnson, searching for Treasure Island friends, wandered in “cordoned off areas” to find bus stops. She “saw many buildings with asbestos hazards laden on them, graffiti made with spray paint and shattered, old windows. It looked very desolate. I am just shocked that we’re allowed to access this ‘normal’ location even though the island is basically contaminated beyond repair.”
Situated at Treasure Island’s northwest corner on Site 12, Halyburton Court consists of a small cluster of vacant 24-unit apartment buildings that, from the 1970s to 1996, housed military families. Considering all possible contamination sources, it is noteworthy that from 1957 to 1969, before Halyburton Court was built, the Navy operated a radiological training school just south along the perimeter facing San Francisco.
Think of Treasure Island as an iridescent green glowing ghost ship whose prow divides the blue waves as it navigates San Francisco Bay waters gliding northwest under the Golden Gate Bridge. On the tidy front lawn of your market rate or low income Site 12 rental brought to you courtesy of The John Stewart Co., it is as if you are standing at the bow of the radioactive vessel as it carries its toxic contents ever forward into a stunning red-gold sunset.
Since the early ‘90s, the Navy has been locating and “remediating” radioactive hot spots from Treasure Island. But it wasn’t until two weeks ago, Feb. 12, 2014, that Kathryn Lundgren learned of the presence of a toxic former burn pit buried next to her home. It was never revealed by Navy officials in any monthly Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) meeting.
Before beginning construction on Treasure Island’s massive high rise project, the Navy is committed to “restoration.” It must test the soil to locate “hot” or “radioactive spots” and what it terms “hot commodities.” “Hot commodities” are radioactive objects the Navy left behind during World War II that rendered the surrounding soil radioactive and dangerous to life.
One Treasure Island resident suspects that her mother’s mysterious death, her children’s strange maladies and her husband’s cardiac event are attributable to at least 14 radioactive elements, a minimum of 26 chemical contaminants and other pollutants deposited in soil after 1941, when the Navy commandeered the island during World War II.
Due to San Francisco’s housing crunch, Treasure Island became a repository for low-income families and people at risk of homelessness. 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.