City, Citizen Group Probe Point Cleanup

US Navy

Workers sample the contents of an old disposal site called Site 2 in this October 2011 photograph. Cleanup plans at Alameda Point are the subject of controversy. Despite the work that the Navy has done so far cleaning up the Point, many think the Navy must do more. The city is questioning the Navy’s proposed plan to address the risks that radioactive paint and other toxic chemicals still pose at the Point.

City officials and a citizen group are questioning the Navy's proposed plan to address the risks posed by radioactive paint and other toxic chemicals that lie under a group of buildings at the heart of Alameda Point, saying the Navy focused too much on cleanup costs in creating its plan and questioning whether they know enough about what contaminants are in the ground to move forward with it.

Both the city and the Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) overseeing Point cleanup efforts want the Navy to undertake a more extensive cleanup of the industrial center of the Navy's former operation, a 53-acre site that includes a 910,382-square-foot building on West Tower Avenue where the Navy cleaned and maintained its airplanes; a missile rework facility; and a former power plant.

"The city wants the Navy to conduct further investigation to better design the specifics of removal — bottom line: the city wishes to remove radiological contamination irrespective of cost," said Dina Tasini, the city's acting chief operating officer for Alameda Point. "Removal of radiological material will insure no human health risk."

A Navy representative denied putting cost ahead of safety. "The process requires any selective remedial response is protective of human health and the environment," said Derek Robinson, the civilian Navy employee managing cleanup efforts at Alameda Point.

He said that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the state Department of Toxic Substances Control and the California Water Board — all of which oversee the Navy's cleanup efforts — determined all of the remediation proposals protect human health; EPA, DTSC and the San Francisco Bay Regional Quality Control Board all concurred with the plan.

City leaders have pinned high hopes on Alameda Point, which they would like to redevelop into a community with about 1,400 homes, a strong commercial base and parks. They'd like to build an employment base in the buildings on the site.

Meanwhile, the Navy has spent more than $500 million cleaning up the Point, far more than they ever envisioned cleanup efforts there would cost.

The Navy's cleanup budget for 2013 is $12 million, about a third of its budget this year. On a recent tour highlighting cleanup efforts at the Point, Robinson said he thought the Navy's cleanup efforts would be complete in 2016.

In a 2011 letter signed by all but one RAB member, RAB requested the Navy perform a more extensive cleanup of the site. They said they wanted the Navy to remove contaminated soil from the site and perform more extensive treatment of groundwater, and that they want the site cleaned up to residential standards.

They questioned whether the Navy could maintain pavement and building slabs over radium's 1,620- year half-life or the prohibition on groundwater use over a long term.

RAB's preferred groundwater cleanup methods would cost an estimated $7.7 million. The Navy's proposed strategies would cost an estimated $3.2 million. The Navy's proposed commercial cleanup standard is lower than the standard for residential use.

"We just want it cleaned up more. We are pushing it there," said Dale Smith, co-chair of the citizen board.

Robinson said Department of Defense policy requires historical, current and future use to be considered in the cleanup decision-making process; he said the commercial cleanup standards being proposed are "consistent with historic and future reuse of the property." The city's plans show it as "employment — adaptive reuse."

In a separate letter, the citizen board said they were having a hard time getting the Navy to answer their questions on the site, and that they were concerned the Navy hadn't done enough work to gain a true understanding of the contamination it may hold. Tasini said the Navy is relying on data from soil samples that were taken outside the site in its determination of what mitigation efforts should be made there.

"It has been our experience in the past that due to a lack of thorough site characterization, contaminants frequently are not detected until clean-up is underway," the Feb. 4, 2011 letter said.

Robinson said the Navy expects to do additional sampling and investigation, but he said the work conducted between 1991 and 2007 was enough for the Navy to know what needs to be done to make the site safe.

"Although additional sampling is expected for the remedial design, the current site characterization is considered appropriate to evaluate remedial alternatives and to select the preferred remedy," he said.

City officials are concerned about the future marketability of the site and also future efforts to install utility lines there which could put construction crews in accidental contact with the drain lines that would be left in place, Tasini said.

"We think they inadequately investigated the issue," she said. "And we want them to investigate more."

The public can comment on the Navy's plans in writing through Monday, Nov. 5; city officials are working on a letter that they plan to present to the city council at its Wednesday, Nov. 7 meeting, Tasini said.

Address written comments on the Navy's plan to Derek Robinson, BRAC Environmental Coordinator, Department of the Navy, Program Management Office West, 1455 Frazee Road, Suite 900, San Diego, CA 92108-4310 or e-mail derek. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Read more online at thealamedan .org.


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