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Volume 31, April 2000

Table of Contents

Catellus Retracts Testimony Following School Board Vote
Benzene may be present at new Alameda School Site

Catellus Development Corporation has retracted their statement that a proposed elementary school site is not contaminated by the carcinogen benzene. Catellus had said that no benzene was found at the future school site during a public hearing. Following the public hearing, the Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) Board voted to acquire the former Navy property. Catellus' retraction came several days after the AUSD Board's vote, when their statements where accurately quoted in an Alameda Journal report of the school board meeting.

Catellus' inaccurate statement that no benzene was found at the school site, contradicted other speakers at the public hearing. These speakers expressed concerns about the benzene contamination that was reported in the Catellus Project Environmental Impact Report and documented in groundwater sampling conducted by the US Navy over the last 12 years. Catellus statements were reportedly supported by physical evidence, when in fact they were manufactured to discredit public speakers and influence the AUSD Board vote.

Catellus' inaccurate statements may result in school age children being exposed to a known carcinogen. Navy housing was constructed on part of the benzene plume. Testing of the air inside these Navy residences has shown hazardous levels of benzene. Similar exposure is likely to occur if the AUSD moves forward with plans to construct a school at the proposed Catellus site.

City EIR Challenged by Renewed HOPE Lawsuit
City had ignored Critics of Baseline Dates in EIR for Years

Renewed HOPE Housing Advocates and ARC Ecology have joined forces to challenge the City of Alameda's Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the reuse of the Alameda Naval Air Station. In a suit filed in Alameda Superior Court on April 24, 2000, Arc Ecology and Renewed Hope requested that the EIR for the base reuse be set aside, and that an EIR that complies with the California Environmental Act (CEQA) now be prepared and circulated. The lawsuit cites four violations of CEQA that were raised during the public comment period for the EIRs but never adequately addressed by the City of Alameda.

The City is accused of prejudicial abuse of discretion for using invalid, inconsistent, and uncertain environmental baselines. Impacts are determined by comparing the environmental baseline conditions to the environmental conditions that are likely to exist after the reuse plan is implemented. The city used environmental conditions that existed in 1990 as the baseline for most impacts. This baseline date is invalid under CEQA.

The use of inconsistent baseline dates is also a clear abuse of discretion. In 1990, East Housing was occupied. However in evaluating significant effects of the project caused by the demolition of East Housing, the EIR states that the housing has been vacant since 1997. The use of both 1990 and 1997 as baseline dates to analyze the same environmental effects is inconsistent with CEQA which contemplates a uniform and unchanging baseline.

The lawsuit also charges that the city failed to comply with procedures for alternative baselines, inadequately analyzed environmental effects, and failed to adopt legally adequate findings. Each of these causes of action is based on the City's failure to comply with CEQA statutes in preparing and certifying the EIR. The Renewed HOPE lawsuit will therefore prevail in the courts.

Comments on East Housing Removal Action
CERCLA Exempts Diggers from City Permit Requirement

Clearwater Revival Company has prepared comments on a draft removal action workplan for East Housing. Catellus and the City of Alameda prepared the Removal Action Workplan to expedite the transfer of potentially contaminated property for residential development. Cal-EPA required the workplan after the Navy proposed a Time Critical Removal Action. The Workplan and Time Critical Removal Action consist of doing nothing. These documents are necessary to implement the City's marsh crust ordinance which won't do anything either. Federal law exempts someone digging into marsh crust contamination from having to obtain a permit as the City's marsh crust ordinance requires. The comments Clearwater Revival Company submitted to Cal-EPA can be found here.

RAB hears from Water Board on Leaking Tank Program
Fuel Leaks at Alameda Point Exception to the Rule

At the April Alameda Point RAB meeting the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) provided a presentation on their Leaking Underground Storage Tank cleanup program. In 1995, the RWQCB adopted a policy of natural attenuation, let nature cleanup leaking underground tank sites. The natural attenuation policy, however, does not apply to fuel leaks that have the potential to impact San Francisco Bay water quality. Despite this, the natural attenuation policy is being used to address leaks from over 100 former underground storage tank sites and eleven miles of underground fuel pipelines at Alameda Point.

The RWQCB's policy requires that the effects of natural attenuation, declining groundwater contaminant concentrations, be demonstrated. This phenomenon has never been demonstrated at Alameda Point. High chloride and boron levels found in groundwater are expected to inhibit biodegradation of petroleum compounds. High chloride concentrations are from saltwater mixing with groundwater. The high boron levels from wastes produced by the Pacific Borax Company (who's plant appears on the seal of the City of Alameda) which operated at Alameda Point for 50 years.

The RWQCB indicated that natural attenuation is appropriate unless explosion hazards may be caused by petroleum fumes in manholes and sewer lines. These hazards have been a constant problem at Alameda Point. Several man-holes near the Atlantic Street Gate and City View Skate Park contain warnings about the fuel leak related explosion hazards. At City View Skate Park fumes from a leaking jet fuel pipeline were evident in the Spring of 1998 and jet fuel was found floating in an adjacent storm drain catch basin.

The RWQCB natural attenuation policy also completely over-looks the risk from petroleum plumes beneath buildings. Building 527 inside the Atlantic Gate has required evacuation in the past due to explosive levels of AV-Gas. Recently extremely hazardous levels of benzene (17 milligrams/cubic meter) were found in a soil gas sample between the Alameda Little League Field and the FISC Annex.

The RWQCB indicated the removal of oil floating on the groundwater surface, referred to as separate phase hydrocarbon, is required by state law. Near a Pier 3 fuel line leak location, separate phase hydrocarbons was removed by a failed water main. Tons of contaminated soil were washed into San Francisco Bay. The Navy had failed to prepare a separate phase hydrocarbon removal report for this and dozens of other Alameda Point within 75 days of leak discovery as required by law.

The RWQCB had threatened to take enforcement action against the Navy to expedite cleanup of fuel leaks but has decided instead to allow nature to take its course. All evidence suggests that nature is a little overwhelmed by the number and volume of fuel leaks at Alameda Point. All evidence suggests that natural attenuation is an inappropriate policy for fuel cleanups at Alameda Point.

Water Leaks and Fuel Leaks Don't Mix
A water main failed washing tons of contaminated soil into San Francisco Bay. The Navy violated state laws requiring prompt cleanup of petroleum fuel leaks.

Quotes of the Month

"..the City's being aware that it may be sued, adding that there may also be discussion in the future about which entity really caused the contamination."

US Navy explaining their plans to cash in on the growing impatience of the City of Alameda to develop contaminated Navy property. The cost to defend the City of Alameda against future law-suits associated with the development of contaminated Navy property will bankrupt the city.

RAB Passes Resolution Concerning Marsh Crust Ordinance
Board's Advise Ignored by City, State, Navy and EPA

At its April 2000 meeting the Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) for the Alameda Point Superfund Site passed a resolution concerning the marsh crust ordinance. The resolution indicates that the Navy failed to properly characterize the marsh crust contamination, and the proposed remedy includes property that may not be contaminated and excludes non-Navy property that is suspected to contain marsh crust contaminants. For full text of the RAB resolution go here.

Question Authority - "What about Community Acceptance?"

Community acceptance is one of nine criteria that must be considered in selecting a cleanup remedy for a contaminated site. The selection of the marsh crust remedy for East Housing by the Navy , US EPA and Cal-EPA did not consider community concerns. The marsh crust documents misrepresent site conditions to avoid legal requirements to address community acceptance.

Contact a regulator and tell them that Alameda is not an exclusive community of pro-development advocates. People who live in Alameda have a greater interest in public health and environmental protection than in the financial return on a hazardous waste landfill housing development. Ask them. What about Community Acceptance?

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.

March 2000 Edition
April 21, 2000