State and federal regulators asked the Navy to stop transferring land from the Hunters Point Shipyard to San Francisco’s control while investigators look into reports that contractor Tetra Tech misrepresented its work cleaning up the toxic Superfund site.
In a Sept. 13 letter to Navy official Lawrence Lansdale, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Angeles Herrera and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control’s Janet Naito requested confirmation that the Navy will not propose any land transfers for the time being.
“We understand that several agencies are currently engaged in ongoing investigations regarding the nature and extent of Tetra Tech’s misrepresentation of data delivered to the Navy,” the regulators wrote. “I am confirming that we agreed [in July] that the Navy will not propose any further transfers of Navy property at [Hunters Point Naval Shipyard] without results of these investigations and/or any other Navy action necessary to clarify the actual potential public exposure to radioactive material at and near [the shipyard].”
Officials from the San Francisco Department of Public Health and the Regional Water Quality Control Board were copied on the letter.
As NBC Bay Area reported earlier this year, a former Tetra Tech employee claimed that he was ordered to replace potentially contaminated soil samples with clean samples, dump potentially contaminated soil into open trenches across Hunters Point, sign falsified documents submitted to the government and tamper with computer data about radiation levels.
Other technicians who worked with Tetra Tech told NBC Bay Area that they were fired in retaliation after reporting violations to regulators. An internal Tetra Tech report from April 2014 found that the company had mishandled soil samples and submitted “falsified data” to the Navy.
The shipyard was the site of the Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory from 1948 through 1969. The decontamination of ships that were intentionally exposed to nuclear blasts in the Pacific Ocean and radiation experiments performed on animals in buildings on the site left parts of the shipyard highly polluted and radioactive.
The shipyard’s 866 acres of San Francisco waterfront land has made it a desirable site for development. The Navy agreed to transfer parcels of land to San Francisco after remediation of toxic and radioactive waste. The city in turn transfers the land at no cost to developer FivePoint, a spinoff of original developer Lennar Corp., which has started building and selling units on one section of the shipyard that the Navy had declared safe.
“If the regulatory agencies responsible for overseeing the cleanup of the Hunters Point Shipyard want to take more time to do additional internal review that is their prerogative,” said Supervisor Malia Cohen, whose district includes the shipyard. “We share the same objective that we get land which is clean and safe as determined by the regulators.”
In July, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recommended a $7,000 fine against Tetra Tech for falsifying data.
Environmental justice activists at San Francisco nonprofit Greenaction have called for Tetra Tech to be fired, for work to pause and for independent testing for contaminants. Greenaction has previously called attention to high rates of cancer in the Bayview neighborhood.
“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission investigation was really just to confirm what happened as far as the falsification of some samples, but there’s been a push for a broader investigation,” said Greenaction Executive Director Bradley Angel. “What we want to see is immediate cessation of work at the shipyard, full investigations, and comprehensive new testing of the whole shipyard — plus off-site.”
A Navy public information officer said they could not respond by press time.