The Navy announced plans Thursday to cap toxins on one of the more highly contaminated parcels of the Hunters Point shipyard, although some of the soil with radiological contamination is slated for removal.
Along with a shoreline embankment to prevent pollution from leaking into San Francisco Bay, the measures will be enough to make the area around the former landfill site safe for human habitation, according to naval officials.
But the Navy’s proposal is not likely to satisfy environmentalists.
Saul Bloom, executive director of Arc Ecology, said he had hoped the Navy would do more removal of toxins than it has planned, and he’s not convinced the proposed barrier will prevent leakage into the Bay.
“We don’t know yet that we’re not going to sue over this,” Bloom said. “We’re going to take a look at the plan and make sure the numbers are honest.”
The plan is part of an overall cleanup of soil and groundwater that would make way for more than 10,000 new homes at the former base. Whether the Navy would cap or remove material at the landfill was a point of contention for environmental groups concerned about health impacts at the site, which has been shuttered since 1974.
The proposed cleanup for the landfill parcel suggests that no homes, hospitals, schools or parks be built on top of the 22-acre area, which was the site of a mysterious underground fire in the summer of 2000 that the Navy says burned for 21 days. Environmentalists contend it smoldered for months.
Keith Forman, a Navy environmental coordinator, said federal officials have been vigilant in their cleanup efforts. In response to concerns from Bayview residents, trucks zipping around the site are constantly spraying water to keep potentially harmful dust from kicking up with the wind.
Forman likened the cleanup at the landfill parcel to an archaeological dig aimed at discovering exactly what is there. He said not everything inside the hole poses danger if it is capped.
“Not all of the contamination needs to be removed,” Forman said.
The new plan also calls for gas vents to release pressure from under the cap. The methane generated from decomposition contributed to the length of the underground fire, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Toxins at the shipyard — mostly buried underground — include “hot spots” containing heavy metals and the manmade chemical PCB, but also mounds of paper and wood.
Forman said the Navy will seek input from the public on the proposed plan and then attempt to move forward swiftly so the base can be transferred to The City, which has approved Miami-based Lennar to conduct the massive homebuilding project. Comments on the cleanup plan can be submitted until Oct. 24.
“The Navy is going to proceed as quickly as it can,” Forman said. “As quickly as it can, while still doing a quality job and a quality cleanup.”
The Navy is cleaning up a Hunters Point parcel.