Navy Outlines Hunters Point Cleanup Plan But Resolution Still Distant

It could be another year until the city knows the full extent of the botched superfund cleanup.

Piles of debris and earth are seen on the Parcel E-2 of the old Hunters Point Shipyard. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

The U.S. Navy’s finally released its plan to retest the Hunters Point Shipyard, the site of a botched cleanup of toxic waste, but concerned neighboring residents could wait another anxious year or more for real answers. 

As a designated superfund site, Hunters Point needed a cleanup before the former shipyard would be safe enough to build housing. The Navy contracted Tetra Tech for the roughly $300 million job but as far back as 2012, it found falsified data by the firm.

In December 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency told the Navy it suspects up to 97 percent of Tetra Tech’s soil samples from an area called Parcel G is falsified. Whistleblowers helped expose the information and two former Tetra Tech supervisors plead guilty to falsifying records in the Hunters Point cleanup.

After much public outcry and steep concern by neighboring residents, the U.S. Navy’s plan to retest soil arrived on Friday. To complete the cleanup, Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc will re-survey some nearby buildings, a yet-to-be-selected contractor will resample the soil, independent contractor Battelle is in charge of regular inspections, and the Navy itself will conduct periodic inspections while reviewing all the data it receives.

It is expected to take three to six months of fieldwork, which could launch in the fall, but “several additional months” to analyze and report the results, the Navy said. And this time, federal and state regulators like the California Department of Public Health will independently sample the soil to make sure the Navy’s results match up.

“The Navy is moving forward with the actions necessary to gather this data and put transfer of the Hunters Point property to the City of San Francisco back on track,” said Laura Duchnak, director of the Navy’s Base Realignment and Closure Program. “We are proud of the history of Hunters Point and are committed to a successful conclusion to our work.”

Supervisor Malia Cohen also announced on Friday that Rep. Nancy Pelosi secured funding for the Navy to also test neighboring Parcel A, where homes have already been built and settled into. At a long-awaited hearing last month, Cohen and Supervisor Jane Kim — who both represent districts where Tetra Tech has been contracted for cleanups — acknowledged that there is no existing evidence to stoke alarm about that parcel, but that a retesting is needed to help residents sleep at night.

“For decades, workers and community members throughout the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhoods have expressed concerns about the dangers of the Shipyard, while millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted on fraudulent testing by Tetra Tech,” Cohen said Friday. “More still needs to be done to give assurances of the health and safety of the public and the environment at the Shipyard and we will continue to place pressure until regulators do the right thing.”

Bayview residents last month filed a class-action lawsuit seeking $27 billion in damages from Tetra Tech and other firms who have done work in the neighborhood. On Friday, the firm said it still stands by its work and that its earlier offer to pay for independent testing stands in help clear its name.

“We believe scientifically valid re-testing will demonstrate the company met the standards established by the Navy,” said Sam Singer, a Tetra Tech spokesperson. “This process will put to rest false statements and misleading speculation promoted by plaintiffs who are motivated by financial self-gain.”

The full plan is available online or in person at the San Francisco Main Library’s Government Information Center on the fifth floor and Shipyard Site Trailer at 690 Hudson Ave. The public comment period is open until August 14.

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