At the March 2018 Treasure Island Restoration Advisory Board meeting, remediation project manager Dave Clark “recollected” that, between 2006 and 2016, the Navy unearthed 1,280 radiological objects, one for every two residents. By contrast, on Sept. 13, San Francisco Chronicle reporters announced the “startling” discovery at Hunters Point of a single “radium deck marker about the size of a silver dollar” near condos on 75-acre Parcel A, which was transferred to the city in 2004 – startling because “contamination ... was cleaned up years ago.”
San Francisco is home to the former Hunters Point Shipyard. Once called “the world’s greatest shipping yard,” it was declared a federal Superfund site in 1989, defined by USEPA as “one of the nation’s most contaminated lands.” Contaminated by radioactive and toxic waste from decades of military and industrial use, including toxic metals, PCBs, radionuclides, pesticides and volatile organic compounds. Numerous studies document Southeast SF is burdened by adverse health impacts due to cumulative exposures to toxic air pollution, carcinogens and industrial waste.
Our story begins on any weekday morning in the mid 1940s, when thousands of men, migrants from the American South to “Frisco,” converged upon the gates of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard on their way to work. To do their jobs building and repairing ships for the biggest employer in the San Francisco Bay Area during the war time economic boom. By 1908, the San Francisco Drydock, operating at the shipyard, had become “the world’s greatest shipping yard.”
My name is Felita Sample. My mysterious illnesses and my daughter LaKrista’s strange afflictions developed after we moved from San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood to Treasure Island. Imagine never-ending nausea and daily dizziness. You can’t tolerate the thought of food. You override this loathing and force yourself to eat. You soon find that anything edible, including water, triggers dry heaves that wrack your chest and abdomen.
Lennar’s track record in Bayview Hunters Point and on Yerba Buena Island clearly demonstrates a pattern of offering assurances they will provide poor, Black and Brown people affordable housing, then finding ways to renege on their promises and kicking them out. Join the protest by residents of Bayview Hunters Point, the Mission and Treasure Island at Lennar’s sales office at 645 Howard St., between Second and Third in downtown San Francisco on Thursday, Jan. 28, at noon, for a rally and a quick march to US EPA headquarters.
Liz Washington dedicates her story to Treasure Island mothers suffering Child Protective Services’ human rights abuses. 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!’” Even after moving to Treasure Island, Liz never escaped CPS’ ravenous appetite for masterminding abductions of her daughter and sons.
The social worker phoned. “We’re taking custody of Chris and Michael.” The boys were transferred to foster care in Oakland. The irony of this institutional child theft was that, after four months living off-island, despite a heavy fast food diet, the boys got better. Their stomach aches and painful constipation slowly dissipated. For Liz, the common denominator was that they were not drinking polluted island water. When they returned, so did their stomach aches.
“I’m trapped and it sucks. Our lives are in danger. I must get out of here but can’t afford it. We are guinea pigs in a big radiological experiment. I know how the Alcatraz prisoners felt hearing the City’s sounds and laughter, but unable to be there. (Island management) is so slick at promoting life on the island, covering up the Navy’s mess and shushing us.”
The Girls and Boys Club departure is sobering for island parents. It establishes that a venerable organization refuses to participate in exposing young people – their children – to radioactive and chemical poisons it knows to a certainty exist at its former site. What if Job Corps and the other small island businesses employing many young people followed suit?
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.
On Nov. 13 the San Francisco Chronicle ran a lead story written by the S.F.-based Center for Investigative Reporting. The story was about the radioactive contamination of Treasure Island, a former U.S. Navy base in the middle of the Bay. This story is important in and of itself but also because it once again unearths the region’s role in the birth of the atomic age and also highlights the radioactive legacy that continues to haunt us.
A survey sent in April of 2008 by the Union of Concerned Scientists to 5,419 EPA scientists reports that 900 scientists say the White House watered down documents regarding climate change and inserted industry language into EPA power plant regulations and that scientific advisory panel conclusions about toxic chemicals went unheeded.
The dirt is in the details. Dirty early transfer, dirty development, dirty politics is not the answer to any of the conditions that plague Bayview Hunters Point or San Francisco as a whole. Now it is our call, our time to get involved to say no to the dirty onslaught upon BVHP and San Francisco.
In its comments on the Candlestick Point-Hunters Point Shipyard Environmental Impact Report, POWER focused on the carcinogens and radiological contamination at the Shipyard; the dangers of liquefaction; climate change and sea level rise; transportation impacts from the proposed development; the connection of the development to the existing community; and the preservation of historic Ohlone sites.
Tuesday, Jan. 5, at 4 p.m. in City Hall Room 416 is the FINAL hearing on the Candlestick Point-Hunters Point Shipyard EIR, a very callous, negligent and dangerous document that identifies numerous life threatening and potentially disastrous impacts to human health and the environment - most dangerous of all the potential construction activities at a federal Superfund site listed as one of the most toxic properties in the nation!
Efforts to “dirty transfer” uncleaned shipyard parcels as proposed in the conceptual plan and the June 2008 ballot measure represent a direct violation of a city ordinance.
Now that we know how that negligence has endangered an upscale white neighborhood in Florida, will anyone in Hunters Point stand up in Lennar’s defense?
It would be a liability to accelerate the transfer of a federal Superfund site from the National Priority List with the data gaps that exist in the characterization of this property. The city admits it cannot clean up the Shipyard’s radiation-contaminated sites, which comprise the bulk of Parcels D and E. Parcel F, the Shipyard’s underwater region, has not been adequately studied.
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