News About Cleanup, Sustainability, Parks, Open Space, and Wildlife at Alameda Point, Alameda, CA
My blog is Alameda Point Environmental Report covering environmental issues from wildlife to cleanup at the former Navy base in Alameda now called Alameda Point.
Articles on my blog are frequently printed in the Alameda Sun newspaper.
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After years of investigation, the Navy, along with the federal and state regulators, has come up with a remediation plan for 39 acres, encompassing five sites, called Operating Unit 2A. On Wednesday, August 31, the Navy will spell out its plan for remediation and solicit comments. The meeting will be at City Hall West at Alameda Point, 950 West Mall Square, Room 201 from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm.
Operating Unit 2A is roughly one block away from the soccer fields on the south side of Alameda Point and one block away from the USS Hornet. The Unit has contamination issues that date back to 1879 when the Pacific Coast Oil Works Company began operating an oil refinery near Main Street.
The main two highlights up for discussion are:
Building 410 is where the Navy operated an aircraft paint stripping facility. The soil was found to be clean, but toxic chemicals seeped into the groundwater. The conclusion reached by the Navy and regulators is that no active remediation efforts need to be conducted. Instead, they will rely on “natural attenuation,” which means to let nature take its course through dilution, dispersion, and biodegradation of the contaminants.
Their rationale for not undertaking a vigorous program to clean the groundwater to drinking water safety levels is that no one will ever be using it for drinking water, especially because of high salt content. No wells are permitted and, even if a well was desired for drinking water, there is pure water at the much deeper 100-foot depth. They also claim that vapors will not intrude into structures because it is in the second water-bearing zone and, therefore, the water zone above will act as a barrier. Continue reading “Navy Announces Cleanup Plans – Public Meeting August 31, 2011”
Parks and open space planning for Alameda Point has been hobbling along for 15 years. We still do not know when or who will be welcoming visitors to the Wildlife Refuge. We still do not know who, when, or what will happen with the Northwest Territories. These two areas, located in the runway portion of Alameda Point, comprise over 700 acres. Linking these two areas together with the Seaplane Lagoon frontage and the future Enterprise Park extending to the Encinal Boat Ramp is the vision of the recently launched Greenspace Project at Golden Gate University (GGU).
The Greenspace Project wants to get all the stakeholders – local, regional, state, and federal – in one room, on the same page, so that not only Alameda, but the entire region, can benefit from the exceptional and rare opportunity for creating a world-class park system at Alameda Point. And they want to do it now, before the Environmental Impact Report for Alameda Point is drafted.
The Greenspace Project is under the umbrella of GGU’s Center on Urban Environmental Law (CUEL). Alameda Point is the Project’s first endeavor, and they are partnering with the Washington, DC-based Urban Land Institute (ULI). They have retained the landscape planning services of accomplished open space planner Stephanie Landregan. Continue reading “Landmark Destination Park System for Alameda Point”
The Navy is proceeding with plans to remediate contaminated groundwater at the old disposal site at the northwest tip of Alameda Point. The contaminated groundwater is within the area known as Site 1, which encompasses over half of the old dump. In one particular area of the dump, the Navy routinely dumped liquid waste material. No one knows for sure how much of it was in drums that may still be rusting away, and how much was just poured into the pit.
Some current and former members of the Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) have long been concerned as to whether the size of the plume has been adequately characterized, meaning how wide and how deep. The main issue is its proximity to the Bay and whether remediation measures will prevent any of the hazardous compounds from entering Bay water. Continue reading “Environmental Cleanup – Update on Site 1”
Seaplane Lagoon dredging contractor fails to meet deadline
The Navy was expecting the contractor to complete the dredging of both the northeast corner and the northwest corner of the Seaplane Lagoon by mid-April prior to the arrival of the endangered California Least Terns. The terns nest on the Wildlife Refuge and feed in the Seaplane Lagoon and nearby waters. It is illegal to disturb them while feeding and nesting. The contractor completed the northeast corner, but work was halted before starting on the northwest corner due to the arrival of the Least Terns.
The dredging will resume in early 2012 and be completed by mid-year. It is unclear at this point whether the Navy will incur an additional expense for the dredging operation, since it was not completed by the deadline, and the dredging equipment had to be demobilized.
In response to a question about whether the Seaplane Lagoon dredging contractor is expected to complete the project within the budget allocated for this project, the Navy’s Environmental Coordinator for Alameda Point, Derek Robinson, said, “The Navy is optimistic the project will be completed within the allocated budget. The Navy and its current contractor are presently negotiating a change to scope to allow the future dredging of the northwest corner of the Seaplane Lagoon to be performed under a new contract.” In response to a question about whether the demobilization of the dredging operation until 2012 is going to lead to a cost overrun, or will the contractor absorb the cost, Derek Robinson reiterated the above statement and went on to say, “Until the negotiations with the current contractor are complete and the new project is awarded, the total project cost will not be known.”
The existing piles of dredge soil on the tarmac near the Air Museum and Bladium will be hauled away this summer. They will be tested for radium-226 and other contaminants in order to determine where they will be disposed of. The fencing along the eastern side of the lagoon has been removed, and the dredging barge is gone.
A separate project on the western side of the lagoon is continuing. It involves removing the last leg of the old sewer drain line that was removed due to radium-226 contamination. A steel barrier has been constructed in the lagoon to prevent contaminants from entering the water during the project.
Is it safe to eat vegetables grown at Alameda Point? A little-known EPA study conducted in 2005 around the Big Whites and Alameda Point Collaborative housing tried to answer that question. In the study, researchers collected fruits, vegetables and edible weed plants such as apples, figs, tomatoes, fava bean seeds, and also flowers of Cat’s Ear which people had been observed gathering for food.
The fruits and vegetables were gathered for the study from 15 locations and analyzed to see if PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) were absorbed by the root systems and transferred to the edible parts. PAHs occur in oil, coal, and tar, and can be produced by forest fires and car exhaust. They are of particular concern in the tested area because rail cars once carried oil products along the northern shore and also because dredge soils from the Oakland Estuary used to form Alameda Point contained byproducts from the coal gasification plant that once operated in Oakland near the estuary. Some of the chemicals in the PAH family, notably benzo(a)pyrene, have been identified as carcinogenic by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Even though some of the soil areas contained elevated levels of PAHs, the edible parts of the plants were found not to contain any contaminants. “None of the 16 PAH congeners on the EPA Priority Pollutant List was detected in any of the plant samples collected from the site,” the report says. Continue reading “Point Being: Are Point Veggies Safe?”
Radioactive alarm bells went off for many peoplewhen they saw the radiological warning signs posted on the fencing around the Seaplane Lagoon dredging operation. But so far, air readings have shown insignificant levels of radiation.
The first soil testing of the dredge mud will take place this summer.
The dredging operation was set up to remove sediment with other contaminants – PCBs, cadmium, chromium, lead, and pesticides. But because there is a chance the radium levels are elevated to risk levels, by federal law, the signs must go up.
The contractor handling the job requires that workers wear a dosimeter, or dose meter, that records cumulative exposure to radiation, and they are monitored daily. As of March 16, two months into the job, the readings have been 1,000 times below the hazard level set by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Continue reading “Point Being: March Mudness”
Cleanup at Alameda Point continues to unfold. Every month the Restoration Advisory Board meets to stay apprised of the happenings and offer comments. The public is invited to attend on the first Thursday of the month, 6:30 p.m. at the rear of City Hall West at Alameda Point. Here are some highlights from the February meeting and a “Point Being” video update on the Seaplane Lagoon.
Site 1 – Burn Area Larger Than Expected
There’s a glitch in the ditch at Site 1 out at the northwestern tip, in the Northwest Territories. This is one of two of the Navy’s industrial dumps (aka disposal sites – the other one being Site 2 to the south on the Wildlife Refuge), and plans were on the calendar to begin the remediation plan on the 30-acre Site 1, which is set to become recreational open space, this year. But instead of 2013, it will now be 2015 before we are throwing Frisbees, riding the Bay Trail, or launching kayaks on the windy, incomparable western shore.
The plan was, and still is, to install a four-foot engineered soil capon top of the site, after digging out and hauling away refuse from the burn area, where things like railroad ties were burned, which makes up a small part of the site. But as the Navy contractor was doing prep work for a detailed work plan, they discovered that the old burn area is larger than expected and that soil under the burn area “exceeded remediation goals,” which at the very least means more testing to find out what else is there.