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”
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?”