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Volume 30, March 2000

Table of Contents

Elementary School Destined for Toxic Waste Site
Inappropriate Navy Property Proposed for Schools

Catellus Development Corporation and the City of Alameda have proposed an eight acre site for a future elementary school as part of the FISC/Annex and East Housing redevelopment. The eight acres is the located on a Navy toxic release site where hazardous wastes remain buried. At a March 28, 2000 ceremony, the City of Alameda entered into an agreement with the Alameda Unified School District to swap this toxic waste site, a Navy hazardous waste site (pictured below) at Alameda Point, and a Northern Waterfront parcel that is largely underwater, in exchange for Mastick Senior Center and a donation of "developer fees" for use in constructing new school facilities.

Despite State Laws requiring diligent environmental reviews before school sites are acquired, no environmental reviews have been conducted by the school district on any of the Navy properties to date. Navy investigations indicate the presence of widespread benzene contamination in groundwater beneath the proposed FISC/Annex school site and the existing George Miller Elementary School. The proposed FISC/Annex School site, George Miller School, Woodstock Elementary School, Encinal High School and the proposed Alameda Point school site are all located on the marsh crust toxic waste site. The Navy has not proposed to remove any of their hazardous waste contamination from these school sites.

State Education law prohibits the use of dollars intended to educate children from being wasted on toxic investigations and cleanups, or from being wasted constructing schools in areas with significant seismic hazards. Catellus and the City of Alameda could have provided the school district with property where these hazards were significantly less, and the cost to construct school facilities could be reduced by millions of dollars. Instead the education and health of Alameda Schoolchildren will be sacrificed to satisfy the collective greed of the City of Alameda and Catellus.

AUSD Future School Site

A Future School Site at Alameda Point

Time Critical Removal Action Would Remove Nothing
Illegal Navy Action at East Housing Interrupted by Cal-EPA

A Time Critical Removal Action was proposed for the Marsh Crust contamination in East Housing.

A "Removal Action" allows the Navy to circumvent the normal planning process for selection of a toxic cleanup remedy if site conditions warrant. The Navy has found that the conditions at East Housing represent an actual or potential threat to human health and environment.

Time Critical means that the Navy does not have six months available to plan the removal action, and therefore can avoid requirements for public participation and compliance with state environmental laws.

The Navy is however acting illegally to avoid addressing public concerns with the Navy's proposed actions. These public concerns were received by the Navy over 12 months ago when the "time-critical" actions were first proposed. The Navy has misrepresented the current conditions at East Housing, and the time available to plan the East Housing removal action to disregard these community concerns.

As evidence of the Navy's illegal intentions, Cal-EPA has now stepped in to create the impression that State Laws will be complied with during the Removal Action. Cal-EPA has prepared a Negative Declaration under CEQA, and Catellus Corp. has prepared a Removal Action Workplan under State Hazardous Waste Control Laws. These documents are available for public comment until April 19, 2000.

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 Time Critical Removal Action at East Housing is not intended to remove anything from the marsh crust. Instead the Time Critical Removal Action would impose the City's Marsh Crust Ordinance on East Housing to facilitate transfer of the property to the City of Alameda.

Critics maintain that the Marsh Crust Ordinance simply passes the Navy's cost to investigate and cleanup contamination onto the City of Alameda and future land-owners. Critics maintain that Cal-EPA is misappropriating its regulatory authority onto the City of Alameda which lacks any expertise in environmental investigation and cleanup. The Navy has proposed the illegal time critical removal action to avoid responding to community concerns about the disparate impact that the Navy's marsh crust remedy has placed on the low-income and minority community in the West End.

Risk Assessment Results for Catellus School Site
Kindergarten is safe for a 156 Pound Child

The Newfields Report was intended to assess risks to teachers and school children from benzene exposure while attending the proposed School in the Catellus Development. The Newfield's Report prepared for the Navy, and approved by Cal-EPA and US EPA toxicologists, completely ignored any risk unique to children, or to an exposed population that was predominately children. In fact the methods used by the Navy, Cal-EPA, and the US EPA assumed that the average weight of children attending the K-5 elementary school was 156 pounds.

Both Cal-EPA and US EPA risk assessment policies, require that future land uses, specifically zoning, be considered when evaluating risks. In the City of Alameda each school is located on land that is zoned for residential use. Therefore under Cal-EPA and US EPA policies, residential land use, which provides the most conservative risk estimates, should have been used for the school site. Instead the Newfields Report presents risk estimates for the school children that are less conservative than residential or industrial land use scenarios.

The fact that the regulatory agencies tasked with protecting the public's health would approve risk assessment protocols that provide a less protective cleanup standard for a school site than would be used for an industrial factory speaks loudly on the unequal protection provided by current environmental policy enforcement in low-income communities of color.

Lessons to be Learned for Site 15 Removal Action
Navy Firefighters Questioned Navy Double-Talk

In November 1995 the US Navy began a non-time critical removal action at Site 15. The Removal Action Approval Memorandum indicated that a removal action was appropriate because uncontrolled site contamination presented a risk to workers at the site. The Navy spent over $2 million dollars and three years to remove the PCB and lead contaminated soil from the site.

Site 15 was used by Navy Firefighters for storage of equipment. Despite a 1990 order from the base commander to comply with OSHA requirements to communicate exposure hazards at Toxic Waste Sites throughout Alameda Point firefighters never received any warning about contamination at Site 15. Recently, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) investigated the fire-fighters complaint. OSC found that the Navy did indeed violate federal health and safety laws. Despite the Navy's representation in the Site 15 Removal Action Memorandum that a risk to workers at the site existed, the Navy now maintains that firefighters where never at any risk.

In response to the Navy's double-talk, the Alameda Point RAB has passed a resolution in support of the firefighters position. A copy of the resolution can be found here.

Quotes of the Month

"The IR Site 02 plume and the dense construction in the multi-family residential site provides minimum area for exposure."

Cal-EPA explaining their diminished concerns for the 39 families who will be future residents of a City of Alameda housing project at the FISC Annex. The City of Alameda intends to construct low-income housing mandated by redevelopment law on a Hazardous Waste Disposal Site. Cal-EPA's decision to approve a no-cleanup plan for significant benzene contamination found in shallow groundwater beneath the site appears to be based on the future residents being low-income people of color.

Feds to evaluate public health impact of Navy Toxins
Mixed Expectations for ATSDR Public Health Assessment

The Agency for Toxic Substance Disease Registry (ATSDR) presented to the March 2000 Alameda Point RAB meeting and held public interviews at Alameda High School the following evening. ATSDR is preparing a public health assessment as required by Federal law for the Alameda Point Superfund Site. The public health assessment is intended to determine if environmental contamination has a demonstrated effect on public health that should be the subject of future studies.

EJPP has mixed expectations for the ATSDR Public Health Assessment. First, ATSDR is expected to determine that the exposures of subsistence fisherman to Navy toxic releases is a serious public health threat that requires future studies of cancer incidents in the exposed population.

Beyond that, ATSDR is expected to come to one of three conclusions for each of the Navy's toxic waste release sites: (1) toxic contamination poses no threat based on current property use, (2) toxin exposure risks will be reduced or eliminated by Navy cleanup action, and (3) insufficient information is available to make a determination on the public health threat from contamination.

At Alameda Point in the past, when ATSDR has reached conclusions that relied on future cleanup actions, or on future investigations, these actions have not been taken by the Navy. In other words even the identification of serious public health consequences by ATSDR will do little to improve the direction of the Navy's Superfund site cleanup at Alameda Point

Question Authority - "Shouldn't Public Schools Be Childproof?"

Are you concerned about your child's safety at school? According to national statistics, the odds your child will be a victim of gun violence while attending a public school is two in a million. In the West End of Alameda your child would be at far greater risk of becoming a cancer victim from exposure to schoolyard toxins deposited by the US Navy.

Contact a regulator responsible for manipulating risk assessment results and ignoring the state education code to reduce cleanup requirements. Ask them yourself. Shouldn't public schools be childproof.?"

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.

February 2000 Edition
March 30, 2000