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Volume 29, February 2000

Table of Contents

Navy to transfer Contaminated Land to City for Development
FISC/Annex and East Housing first of the Proposed Dirty Transfers

The Navy has proposed to transfer the FISC/Annex and East Housing areas to the City of Alameda without completing all required environmental cleanup. The Navy has proposed that the cleanup activities at the FISC/Annex scrap yard site be performed by the City of Alameda. The Navy would fund the City directed cleanup.

The details of the cleanup activities at the scrap yard and other "no action" sites have not been finalized in a Record of Decision. Because the Navy has not completed all of the environmental documents to address the contamination, and additional cleanup actions will be necessary, a Feasibility of Suitability for Early Transfer (FOSET) document was issued for the FISC/Annex area.

A Feasibility of Suitability for Transfer (FOST) was issued for the East Housing Area. The FOST indicates that all actions to address contamination at the site have been taken. The Navy however still must complete a Record of Decision for the marsh crust contamination. The Navy, however, is speculating that the community will find the "no further action" and enactment of the marsh crust ordinance to be an acceptable remedy.

Clearwater Revival Company prepared comments on the FOSET for the Alameda FISC/Annex. These comments can be found here. CRC found that the FOSET did not contain legally required information, misrepresented the sources of the contamination, and relied on an inexperienced City of Alameda to perform environmental remediation.

Arc Ecology prepared comments on the FOST for East Housing, These comments can be found here. ARC found that the FOST did not contain legally required information, did not identify the source of funding to enforce the marsh crust ordinance, did not provide a description of the marsh crust ordinance, and did not include a map showing the depth at which the marsh crust contamination is found.

City Council Passes Marsh Crust Ordinance
City Law would Further Deteriorate Safety of Navy Cleanup

The Marsh Crust Ordinance passed the final vote of the City Council on February 15, 2000. The passage of this ordinance further demonstrates City Hall's complete ignorance about the Navy's environmental cleanup program. The ordinance's effect will transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars of Navy cleanup costs to the City of Alameda, and prevent the prompt cleanup of an existing public health and environmental problem.

The Marsh Crust is a layer of Navy waste that is speculated to be found throughout 700 acres of the former Alameda Naval Air Station and the adjacent FISC/Annex. The City's Marsh Crust ordinance would require a home-owner in the marsh crust area to obtain a permit to dig into the marsh crust. This permit would require that a home-owner spend about $5,000 in professional services, and hazardous waste disposal fees and taxes, for simple tasks like planting a tree.

The City produced a map showing the Marsh Crust area, but has been unable to produce a map showing the marsh crust depth. A home-owner would only be required to obtain a permit when digging below the depth of the marsh crust surface. While the marsh crust has been described as a layer of contamination at eight to 20 feet below the ground surface, the Navy has recently produced a map showing the marsh crust is located less than five feet below the ground surface in the East Housing and FISC/Annex warehouse area.

Despite the expense of complying with the marsh crust ordinance, the City of Alameda included non-contaminated property in the Marsh Crust area. The US EPA and US Navy have agreed that six parcel at Alameda Point are free of contamination. These CERFA Parcels, all located near the Main Gate on Main Street, are excluded from the Navy's description of the Marsh Crust Area boundaries. For some unexplained reason these uncontaminated CERFA parcels are included within the marsh crust area covered by the City ordinance.

Residents of Daly City's Marsh Crust Have Chromosone Damage
Midway Village contamination similar to Coast Guard Housing

Cal-EPA identifies Midway Village as a successful development on a site contaminated with polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons. The residents of Midway Village tend to disagree with Cal-EPA representation of success. They disagree so much that the residents of this San Mateo County Public Housing project paid to have a genetic test performed to identify damaged chromosones. The results were enough for the Agency of Toxic Substance Disease Registry (ATSDR) to idependently review the findings.

This was front page news in the San Francisco Chronicle. A copy of the article can be found here. Contamination at Midway Village is similar in all respects to the contamination that is speculated to exist in the marsh crust.

East Housing Demolition, Principle Impact of Catellus Project
Alternative looks at toxic free School Site, less Impacts

Clearwater Revival Company, East Bay Housing Organizations, Renewed HOPE Housing Advocates and ARC Ecology collaborated to provide comments on the Catellus Project proposed for East Housing and the Alameda FISC/Annex. An alternative proposal to provide work-force housing and toxic free school site was proposed. A description of the work force alternative and comments on the Catellus EIR can be found here.

Catellus Development Co. proposed demolition of functional housing to construct a gated community drew criticism from all corners of the island at the January 29, 2000, public hearing. Catellus set aside the most notorious toxic waste site for a school and public housing. Privately maintained streets surround a City maintained park. A ten-foot soundwall was proposed on one-side of the street, reflecting noise into existing residential neighborhoods. These were among flaws identified in the City of Alameda's Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the project.

Among the significant impacts identified by the City of Alameda was the net loss of 55 housing units, and the solid waste volume created by the demolition of East Housing. The City EIR also identified traffic congestion and air quality impacts resulting from the imbalance between salaries and housing costs which result in part from the lack of affordable housing in Alameda.

The Navy approved East Housing for leasing in May 1996 indicating all asbestos and lead paint issues had been adequately addressed. Since this time the City of Alameda could have realized, conservatively, over $3.5 million per year in net rental income from these housing units. In the five years that East Housing units have remained vacant, $17.5 million dollars of potential rental income has been lost. This $17.5 million in foregone revenue exceeds the City's proposed sale price of East Housing lands to Catellus.

Quotes of the Month

"The excavation was to be done as maintenance... it has not been determined if the soil is contaminated."

Michael McClelland, US Navy, explaining to the Alameda Point RAB that violating federal laws governing removal actions at Superfund sites to install playground equipment is maintaining something. The only thing that EJPP identified that is being maintained by installing playground equipment at a toxic waste site where soil contamination is both widespread and documented, is the environmentally racist policies of the US Navy.

City-owned Leaking Tank Site Goes Under
Dale's Bar Example of Marsh Crust Ordinance Effectiveness

On January 19, 2000, complaints were made to the Alameda County Environmental Health Department and the Regional Water Quality Control Board about contaminated stormwater runoff from Dale's Bar at Singleton Avenue and Main Streets.

When Dale's Bar was purchased last year, City Hall failed to perform the standard due diligence to identify environmental liabilities on the property. The city later "discovered" non-compliant underground storage tanks. During the first week of December, the underground tanks were removed from Dale's Bar, but oil was discovered floating on the groundwater surface. The City pumped this oil contaminated groundwater into a tributary of San Francisco Bay, illegally disposed of marsh crust contaminated soils on the property, and violated the City's stormwater pollution prevention ordinance on 60 continuous days.

Following the complaints about contaminated run-off, the site became flooded by the rainstorm that hit Alameda on January 22, 2000. An uncovered stockpile of contaminated soil from the marsh crust was all that could be seen through the floodwaters at the site. Flooding at this site was predictable. The City bought the property with the intent on installing a stormwater retention basin to alleviate a chronic flooding.

Dale's Bar epitomizes the complete lack of environmental awareness at City Hall. A naivete that will eventually bankrupt the City of Alameda.

Dale's Bar

Inconsistent Rationale leads to Removal of Fence at Toxic Park Site
Playground Equipment Hot Spots remain Accessible to Children

During a recent presentation, the Alameda Point RAB was told the goal of future sampling at Site 25 (Estuary Park and Coast Guard Housing) was to obtain statistically valid sampling. What has statistics to do with sampling at this Superfund site? Everything and nothing. If a sample has a high concentration, it is averaged down. If a sample has a safe concentration, it stands on its own.

The Navy recently removed the fence around portions of Estuary Park. The Navy identified the area of public access based on the results of individual samples. Access was allowed to areas where the cancer risk from contaminants exceeded the US EPA's no significant risk level by less than a factor 100. The US EPA's significant risk level is an additional case of cancer in a population of one million people.

If the results of a single sample are to be used as reliable estimators of risk, the Navy should have placed a fence around playground equipment installed in the Coast Guard housing area across the street from Estuary Park. The sample from the playground equipment showed a risk over 100 times the US EPA's significant risk level. However, in this case the Navy chose to use an average concentration obtained using four additional samples around the playground equipment with lower concentrations. The risk calculated from the five sample average was lower than 100 times the significant risk level.

Risk management decisions about the park and the playground equipment at Site 25 are made for efficacy and not in the interests of public health. The uncertainty in contaminant concentrations, coupled with the unprotective standard of 100 times the no significant risk level, indicate a low level of statistical confidence about protectiveness of decisions made about Site 25 access.

Question Authority - " Why should Alameda accept a dirty transfer?"

Love Canal was a Dirty Transfer. Now, the City of Alameda will be on the receiving end of a dirty transfer. As the City prepares to accept contaminated property for development a look at the reason why is important.

Has the Navy kept the toxic waste site cleanup on schedule to avoid delays in transferring Navy lands to the City? Is the City patient enough to wait until toxic waste site cleanup is completed to begin development? Does the City, which is also the owner of the Dale's Bar Leaking Underground Tank Site, have the ability to safely perform toxic waste cleanup on behalf of the Navy? If you answered NO to any of these questions ask the authorities. Why should Alameda accept a dirty transfer?

The Environmental Justice Progress Report is the newsletter of West End Concerned Citizens (WECC). WECC has been monitoring the toxic cleanup planning process at the Alameda Point Naval Air Station (NAS) since 1995. Our community members have become increasingly frustrated at the lack of response to the public's concerns, the inadequate information provided to the public, and the lack of opportunities for the public to participate in the decision making process.

To receive a free copy of the this monthly report of for more information, please contact us at ejpp@toxicspot.com.

November 1999 Edition
February 3, 2000