Navy Shows Final Cleanup Plan

City of Alameda    Site 32 on the northwest edge of Alameda Point is the subject of next Wednesday’s meeting at the library.

The Navy will present its proposed cleanup plan for Site 32, a 60-acre site on the northwest corner of the former runway area at Alameda Point at a meeting next week at Alameda Main Library. Site 32 is the last of the Navy’s cleanup sites at the Point awaiting a certified plan, or remedy. The site, which will one day become part of a regional park, consists of buildings, a concrete bunker, roads, runways, a parking lot and open grassland, including more than nine acres of seasonal wetlands. 

The primary contamination at the site is Radium-226 that the Navy used in luminescent paint for aircraft instruments and markers. Radium is a radioactive metal found in trace amounts in the natural environment in virtually all rock, soil, plants and animals. Trace amounts are permitted in public drinking water. Chronic exposure to elevated levels of the metal through ingestion, however, can lead to serious health risks. Radium in large underground rock formations can produce hazardous radon gas, but this is not the source of radium at Alameda Point.   

The contamination is presumed to have occurred during the expansion of the aircraft runway in the early 1950s. The adjacent cleanup site, Site 1, served as a waste disposal site until the runways were expanded. It is believed that grading of the soil for the runway expansion spread radium paint waste from the old dump to what is now Site 32.

Although the number of spots with elevated readings for radium on the 60-acre site is small, the testing equipment only provided data to a depth of one foot. Thus, the true extent of the random waste material in unknown. 

The Navy, along with federal and state regulators, considered three alternatives to address the contamination. One alternative would be spot removal of known contamination at a cost of $12.6 million. A second alternative would be to cover the entire 60 acres with three feet of clean soil and create new wetlands to replace the covered seasonal wetlands at a cost of $25.4 million. A third alternative would remove everything, down to a depth of 10 feet and replace it with clean soil to the original elevation at a cost of $79.3 million. 

The Navy is proposing the second alternative, complete soil cover and wetland mitigation, virtually the same remedy as used on the adjacent Site 1. The soil cover would eliminate the potential for ingesting radium particles. The soil cover and wetland area would be seeded with native plant species.

Sites 1 and 32 along with approximately 60 more acres along the Oakland Estuary are slated to become a 158-acre regional park. At the April 12 liaison meeting between the East Bay Regional Park District and the City of Alameda, officials discussed the collaborative effort they expect to bring to their respective bodies in the coming months for approval.

The Navy’s public meeting will be held in the first floor meeting room of the Alameda Main Library, 1550 Oak St., from 6 to 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 25. The public is encouraged to ask questions and submit comments on the proposed plan.

 

Richard Bangert posts stories and photos about Alameda Point environmental issues on his blog at https://alamedapointenviro.com.