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Twenty years ago, the city of San Francisco moved thousands of its homeless and low-income residents into former military housing on Treasure Island, a small artificial land mass whose 55 years as a Navy base left it covered in toxic radiation. Today, construction on the island has it on track to becoming a bustling, upscale extension of the city. The problem is, some of those residents from 20 years ago are still there. So are thousands of others who have moved in since. So is the radiation.
Hunters Point and Treasure Island are historical Siamese twins, inextricably linked by Navy nuclear activity and toxic dumping. As Tetra Tech’s fakery and malfeasance is exposed, Hunters Point is receiving massive attention, but Treasure Island victims continue to be poisoned and evicted, attracting scant notice and no help. Taxpayers are footing the bill to the tune of billions for massive Navy remediation, botched cleanups and two redeveloped, but toxic, Naval bases, where, in the end, no one can safely live.
For both armed and unarmed combat, the United States military is unparalleled in the world. So, when the U.S. Navy points the finger for its bungled Hunters Point cleanup at Tetra Tech to deflect from its own liability, it’s a carefully thought-out advance strategy that has worked for decades on contaminated Naval bases around the globe.
After 18 years subjecting San Franciscans who were homeless, poor and mostly of color to massive toxic hazards and environmental racism on radiation and chemically contaminated Treasure Island, the Treasure Island Development Authority (TIDA)’s redevelopment consortium – Five Point, Stockbridge Capital Group, Lennar, Wilson-Meany, John Stewart Co. and other financial interests – seem to be attempting to induce tenants to leave the island while forestalling possible legal roadblocks.
Seventy years! As I was sorting through papers, correspondence, news clippings and records, I realized that nuclear bomb and nuclear power development occurred within my lifetime. It was July 1945 when Trinity, the first atomic bomb, was detonated at the nuclear site in Alamogordo, New Mexico, followed the next month with a uranium bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and a hydrogen bomb on Nagasaki. At least 129,000 men, women and children were immediately killed.
After LaKrista and I were manipulated into moving onto Treasure Island, we discovered it was toxic and was making us sick. So we decided to tell the world. I experienced no ill health and had never been hospitalized until, in 2004, I moved to Treasure Island. Soon, my young daughter LaKrista and I manifested similar strange symptoms. Years later, I put two and two together. I learned that neighbors on my block suffered the same illnesses as LaKrista and I.
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.
A “space mountain,” “a behemoth,” “a colossus,” “a palace for Jabba The Hut” and “a half-baked baked Alaska” – that’s how columnists have described George Lucas’ $400 million 300,000-square-foot Museum of Narrative Art, a collection of Americana and Hollywood memorabilia. On May 16, 2016, San Francisco Supervisor, Aaron Peskin, appeared on CBS Bay Area talk show “Matier in the Morning,” where he reintroduced Treasure Island as a site for the project.
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.
Loud pounding exploded on Liz Washington’s townhouse door on Treasure Island one day in 2005. A large African-American woman stood outside on the stoop. When her children's father cracked open the door, four burly male cops stormed in from behind her and pushed their way into the house. The worker announced coldly, “Someone at the school called CPS on you. I’m here to take your kids.”
Is the Treasure Island Development Authority (TIDA) board hearing San Franciscans’ concerns about radiation and chemical contamination, earthquake liquefaction risks and displaced persons’ relocation rights? Actually, no! Employing blocking techniques that capitalize on the fear of speaking in public, the formidable TIDA board is plowing ahead with Redevelopment, insisting on – while resisting – public input.
On Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014, crowds in Clipper Cove bleachers cheered Chinese Dragon Boat races, completely unaware that, at that same moment, on the island’s far end, Treasure Island residents were suffering years of infrastructure collapse and being flooded out. While the Treasure Island Development Authority rakes in admission fees, it is taking no action to rebuild island infrastructure for current residents or protect them from the ravages on their health of flooding, mold and radiation.
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.”
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.
March 11 will make the second anniversary of the triple catastrophes that occurred in Japan: the earthquake, the tsunami and the nuclear meltdowns at Fukushima. Over the last two years people are asking whether the Fukushima nuclear disaster is worse than what occurred in 1986 in Chernobyl.
The good news is that 11 months after the Fukushima meltdown, thousands of Japanese marched in the streets to protest the continuing operation of nuclear power plants in their country, and urged a shift to renewable energy. Meanwhile in the U.S. the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved the building of two new nuclear power plants in Georgia.
Earthquake evacuees living in temporary housing and shelters in the hard-hit city of Ishinomaki have developed deep thrombophlebitis, the swelling of a vein caused by a blood clot. Diseases of the blood and circulatory and lymphatic systems are among the most widespread consequences of the Chernobyl contamination, especially among evacuees.
Nuclear fallout knows no state or national boundaries and will contribute to increase in illnesses, decrease in intelligence and in instability throughout the world. No country can maintain itself if its citizens are economically, intellectually, politically and socially impoverished. Given the continuing and known problems caused by the Chernobyl catastrophe, we must ask ourselves: Before we commit ourselves to economic and technological support of nuclear energy, who, what and where are we willing to sacrifice and for how long?
The media are doing damage control to help keep people from flooding out of Japan and further destabilizing the Japanese economy. Given the evidence, the history of disasters and epidemics of disease, reporting on Japan’s absence of a radiation threat is criminal.
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