As a shockwave of disclosures expands the Hunters Point scandal, more startling historical and scientific facts were revealed by Daniel Hirsch, former University of California Santa Cruz Program on Environmental and Nuclear Policy director on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. A clutch of powerful federal, state and local politicians has been involved for decades in the remediation and redevelopment of Superfund sites Hunters Point and Treasure Island.
Daniel Hirsch, president of the nonprofit Committee to Bridge the Gap and former director of the Program on Environmental and Nuclear Policy at the University of California Santa Cruz, spoke with the press in advance of a community presentation at Hunters Point Shipyard. Many Shipyard residents have been frustrated with what they feel are less than forthcoming answers from the Navy and regulatory agencies regarding the radioactive contamination at the Shipyard.
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.”
Behind a chain link fence on Site 6’s northern border across Avenue M from the island’s Wastewater Treatment plant, the Navy stores, moves out and continually replaces a trail of thousands of large boxcar shaped containers full of radiologically toxic materials to be shipped off-island. “There have been several (high-radiation) shipments and about a thousand intermodal (containers) of radium waste shipped from Treasure Island.”
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.
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.
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?
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.