Landmark Destination Park System for Alameda Point

Greenspace Project's concept for interconnected park system at Alameda Point. Shown as an overlay on existing "Going Forward" city map. Red letters indicate project additions. Link to map with zoom feature at end of post.

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”

Environmental Cleanup – Update on Site 1

Site 1 indicated by blue line. Yellow line indicates entire area used by Navy as a disposal area from 1943 to 1956. Red indicates waste pit that caused groundwater contamination. Navy photo and overlay.

Groundwater

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”

Environmental Cleanup – Seaplane Lagoon; RAB Tour; Lead; Groundwater

Sun sets on dredging project for this year - to resume in 2012. Fence is down on east side of lagoon, which will allow sunset viewing and bird watching throughout the remainder of the year.

Seaplane Lagoon dredging contractor fails to meet deadline

Seaplane Lagoon dredging barge is gone, not having completed the job on time.

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.

Installing steel sheet pilings in lagoon prior to removing drain pipe, soil, and concrete

 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.

Lead in soil

Work has begun next to the Collaborative housing to remove lead contaminated soil.  Sidewalk sections have been removed and the area fenced off.  Continue reading “Environmental Cleanup – Seaplane Lagoon; RAB Tour; Lead; Groundwater”

Point Being: Are Point Veggies Safe?

Part of area where veggies were studied - near Main Gate and Big Whites.

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?”

Point Being: March Mudness

Hopper barge in background for dredging barge to load sediment into. Red crane transfers mud from hopper to land.

Seaplane Lagoon Dredging Raises Concerns

Radioactive alarm bells went off for many people when 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”

Point Being: Clean Ups and Downs

Dredging northeast corner of Seaplane Lagoon

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 at western end of Alameda Point in Northwest Territories - burn area in background - Bay Bridge in distance

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 cap on 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.

Continue reading “Point Being: Clean Ups and Downs”