S.F. Supervisor Calls for Hearing Into Hunters Point Shipyard Cleanup

An aerial view of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard from 2012. (Molly Samuel/KQED)

San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen is calling for a hearing into problems plaguing the cleanup of radioactive material from the Hunters Point Shipyard, after a federal report found contractors falsified soil sample data from the site to a much greater degree than previously known.

The shipyard, a former nuclear weapons research facility in the southeast section of the city, was designated in 1989 as a Superfund site. Now it is slated to become the future location of one of San Francisco's largest redevelopment projects in decades, providing 12,000 new housing units, as well as office and commercial space.

An Environmental Protection Agency report, recently revealed by a scientific advocacy organization, found that the Navy understated the scope of the decades-old cleanup of the contaminated site.

"I share the community's outrage. This is disgusting and completely unacceptable that the cleanup has taken this long," said Cohen, whose district includes the old shipyard, in an interview on KQED's Forum. "As far as I'm concerned, there will be no transfer of land until things are cleaned up to the highest standard possible."

The Navy hired Tetra Tech to clean up the shipyard's radioactive material. Workers at the company came forward several years ago to allege that the cleanup was faked.

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A review of the contractor data last year, first reported by Curbed SF in January, found that close to half of the company's data could be fraudulent.

Navy officials said the agency would conduct extensive retesting of soil.

This week the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility published the EPA report that found up to 97 percent of the Navy soil samples on two of the site's parcels that were re-examined by the federal agency were "neither reliable nor defensible."

"Would this happen in the Marina? Would this happen in other parts of San Francisco? I would argue, absolutely not," Cohen said, noting that cleanup work at Treasure Island has moved much faster.

Signs advertising the new Shipyard development surround one of the project's ongoing construction sites at Hunters Point.
Signs advertising the new Shipyard development surround one of the project's ongoing construction sites at Hunters Point. (Brittany Hosea-Small/KQED)

EPA officials say there's a reason why their report showed more evidence of false data.

"EPA's assessment of the data included looking more closely for signs of potential data quality problems, in addition to signs of potential falsification," said agency spokeswoman Michele Huitric.

"EPA is pleased that the Navy will be resampling the impacted parcels and relying on these new data to determine where additional cleanup may be needed," Huitric said in an email. "EPA's input, which is based on our independent review of the data, will help inform where the resampling will be done."

In response to a request for comment, Tetra Tech directed inquiries to the Navy. Navy officials have yet to respond.

Environmental and community activists have tried to call attention to the cleanup problems for years.

"You need to be up in arms about what's gone on at the Hunters Point shipyard," said Bradley Angel, executive director of Greenaction, a health and environmental justice organization based in San Francisco.

"For years now, falling on deaf ears of our elected officials and government regulatory and health agencies, was that the cleanup was a farce," said Angel. "The government was deaf, dumb and blind ... because they were pushing the building of thousands of new homes ... next to toxic and radioactive contaminated land," he said.

Cohen expects the Board of Supervisors to hold a hearing on the cleanup problems in the coming weeks.

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