Navy Forced to Destroy Wetlands at Alameda Point

A recently released Navy document reveals that an implausible last-minute health-risk theory killed the Navy’s plan for upgrading and expanding wetlands at Alameda Point where a regional park is planned (Navy To Create New Wetlands,” Jan. 3, 2019).

A 60-acre cleanup site, known as Site 32, was on track to include 15 acres of seasonal wetlands, along with a doubling of watershed drainage into the wetlands.  The regulatory agencies overseeing cleanup — namely, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Regional Water Board, and Department of Toxic Substances Control — had signed off on the plan in 2018.  But nothing has been done since the tons of clean soil for the project were delivered there in 2019.

A support agency, the CA Department of Public Health (CDPH), interjected claims that trees, other vegetation, and burrowing animals could compromise the proposed soil cover underneath the 15 acres of proposed new wetlands, exposing people and animals to radiological contaminants from paint residue on scattered objects that have been buried there for 65 years.

Continue reading “Navy Forced to Destroy Wetlands at Alameda Point”

Navy to investigate fire suppression foam contamination

When an airplane is coming in for a belly landing or has an engine on fire, the only way to prevent the entire plane from becoming engulfed in flames is by dousing the runway or the plane with fire suppression foam.  Navy firefighters were trained in the use of fire suppression foam near the airplane runways at Alameda Point.

Over the past two decades, there has been one bad news story after another about the foam’s toxic ingredients contaminating drinking water.  These same toxic ingredients are also found in common consumer products.  The Centers for Disease Control estimates that as many as 95 percent of the population have traces of these cancer-causing, endocrine-system-disrupting chemicals in their body. 

That’s partly because consumer products with the same chemical compounds, such as water repellant outdoor wear, carpets, food packaging, and even cosmetics, are still on the market.  Some household brand names that pioneered the marketing of products with the harmful chemicals, like Scotchgard and Teflon, have been reformulated and claim to be safe.  Environmental advocacy groups like Earthjustice are not convinced.

As the science about the human health effects has become more compelling and public awareness so great, the military is now embarking on a cleanup program at active and former military bases, including Alameda Point.

Continue reading “Navy to investigate fire suppression foam contamination”

Decades-long groundwater solvent cleanup completed at Building 5

A liquid solvent that is able to dissolve other substances can run, but it can’t hide from investigators, even 20 feet below ground.  A toxic cleaning solvent called trichloroethane (TCE) was used to degrease metal parts in industrial operations at the Navy’s aircraft repair facility.  When this solvent leaks into soil and groundwater, as it did in Building 5 at Alameda Point, the odorless vapors can cause cancer and other ill health effects to occupants of buildings above as it evaporates.

The actual process of cleaning up the contamination, while time-consuming, is not the real problem.  The real challenge is finding it, measuring it, and calculating what the safe cleanup level is for future use of the building, in this case commercial. Continue reading “Decades-long groundwater solvent cleanup completed at Building 5”

Navy digs up petroleum contamination in rare cleanup action

Cleaning up petroleum contamination in soil and groundwater is pretty straightforward.  It is usually accomplished by one or more tried-and-proven methods that rely on inserting PVC pipe into the contamination zone for treatment.  But multiple efforts outside the sprawling Building 5 hangar complex on West Tower Avenue at Alameda Point failed to reduce contamination to regulatory goals.  In August 2020, after almost two decades of investigation and treatment efforts, the Navy resorted to a rarely used option of digging up all of the soil down to the water table and hauling most of it away.

Building 5 was the location of the Navy’s plane refurbishing and overhaul facility where thousands of civilians worked.  It was known as the Naval Air Rework Facility.  Before an airplane was moved into the hangar, it underwent de-fueling, flushing out fuel lines and cleaning various components with products akin to paint thinner.  This preparatory work was the source of the contamination in the soil and groundwater near the big hangar doors. Continue reading “Navy digs up petroleum contamination in rare cleanup action”

Navy stabilizes shoreline at Alameda Point

Part of the shoreline along the Oakland Estuary at Alameda Point has been upgraded with a prominent new pale gray stone embankment.  While the aesthetic value is immediately apparent, the engineering value is not.

The reinforcement of this Estuary shoreline, including several hundred feet on the Bay side, ensures that both shorelines remain stable. Continue reading “Navy stabilizes shoreline at Alameda Point”

Soil cover being installed at future park site

The Navy made significant headway in June and July on its third and final environmental remediation soil-cover project on the Alameda Point airfield, with 7,289 truckloads of soil being hauled in from an East Bay Municipal Utility District soil-storage site in Castro Valley.  The frenzy of truck traffic through the Tube and down Main Street led to complaints of speeding trucks and running red lights, prompting the Navy to warn truck drivers that they could be removed from the job for violating traffic laws, and the City of Alameda Police Department to step up traffic enforcement.

A temporary mountain of approximately 200,000 cubic yards of stockpiled soil is visible on the western end of the airfield during a ferry ride to San Francisco from the Main Street Ferry Terminal.  Another 100,000 cubic yards of cover soil and 60,000 cubic yards of top soil for new vegetation is expected to be delivered by November.  The soil will be used to create a three-foot cover over the 60-acre cleanup site by the end of 2020. Continue reading “Soil cover being installed at future park site”

Word on the street about Alameda Point cleanup

Commercial hangar reuse

The massive aircraft hangar at the end of West Tower Avenue moved one step closer to commercial leasing last week.  The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) performed random radiation scanning inside the building to certify that the Navy’s cleanup of paint residue containing radium-226 was complete.  The other regulatory agencies have already signed off on the radiation cleanup after the Navy performed an inch-by-inch scanning effort.

As soon as this fall, CDPH could issue a letter that would allow the city to lease the building.  The nearly million-square-foot building complex (Building 5) has been unavailable to the city for leasing for more than a decade.  Other buildings on the base have been leased to the city by the Navy under what’s known as the Lease in Furtherance of Conveyance agreement, which has allowed the city to sublease the buildings until transfer of ownership. Continue reading “Word on the street about Alameda Point cleanup”