February 13, 2018: Following reports by CurbedSF, The San Francisco naval shipyard is once again in the news regarding the asbestos, radiation, and other hazardous substances present on the property. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found the site to pose a hazard to the health of the public and was designated a Superfund site necessitating extensive clean-up and remediation. It now appears that much of the $1 billion spent to clean up the contamination may need to be redone. The testing of the air and soil for asbestos and radiation were found to be incomplete, falsified, or not able to be verified.
One of those contaminants is asbestos. Asbestos dust in or around new residential buildings is an obvious hazard, as any exposure to asbestos can lead to asbestosis or mesothelioma. There is no safe level of asbestos exposure. According to reports much of the asbestos dust testing previously conducted at the shipyard cannot be verified and may need to be repeated. Additionally, previous radiation testing has been discovered to be half incomplete, unverifiable, or falsified. These testing problems extend to multiple contractors over nearly a decade.
Problems with testing were first discovered when workers for the company came forward claiming fraud was occurring. Hundreds of condos and townhomes already exist and were sold to residents, who pay additional property tax each year to assist with cleanup efforts. Navy ships docked would be stripped of asbestos containing materials such as asbestos insulation, gaskets and packing, and needed replacement would occur for asbestos containing valves, pumps and boilers. The asbestos dust testing was critical to ensuring new residents would not be exposed to mesothelioma causing asbestos fiber.
The Navy shipyard was home to docking ships who had been exposed during nuclear testing. These ships would be cleaned at the shipyard, with the runoff contaminating nearby water and soil. Radiation tests are needed to ensure safe levels of exposure, residents in nearby Hunters Point and Bayview have higher rates of cancer and asthma and other ailments.
The Hunters Point redevelopment project at the old Navy shipyard is intended to contain up to 12,000 housing units and millions of square feet of corporate park real estate. This project has been put on hold for over a year due to these asbestos and radiation testing issues, and may face additional delays as retesting and hazard detection occurs. The Navy coordinator for cleanup at the shipyard was direct regarding false or incomplete tests from one contractor: “We’ve lost confidence in Tetra Tech’s work”. The testing and cleanup began in 2005 and the Navy may be paying (or in this case re-paying) for cleanup for years.
For more information on asbestos and mesothelioma, read these links:
For local news video regarding San Francisco Shipyard asbestos dust testing, see this video: