A 1,600-foot stretch of sludge in the Bayview District has been contaminated with lead and other dangerous toxins for years. But now the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is spearheading a cleanup of the area, whose polluted mud has long posed a risk to people and wildlife alike.
The site is called Yosemite Slough, a small San Francisco Bay inlet nestled between the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard and Candlestick Point State Recreation Area. The area, which appears as muddy sludge during low tide and is covered with three to six feet of water at high tide, has been used for industrial waste dumping for decades.
The EPA has reached a settlement with 12 different companies that it has found partially responsible for the contamination, including Coca-Cola North America, Exxon Mobil Corporation, and Ashland, Inc.
As with many government projects, this cleanup effort will be lengthy and time-consuming. The first phase of the effort will be the initiation of nine technical studies whose purpose will simply be to develop the cleanup plan. Eventually, trucks will remove the top layers of the most contaminated mud and fill the area with clean sand and mud that will act as a cap.
The Yosemite Slough area is contaminated with lead, mercury, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that can spread throughout the bay and remain in the environment for decades. People are at risk if they eat fish or shellfish infected with these contaminants, prompting the EPA to initiate the San Francisco Bay Water Quality Improvement Fund to restore the bay’s water quality and reduce pollution.