Todd Shipyards copper cleanup

Todd Shipyards/Site 28. Dog Park to left of fence, Port of Oakland on right.

Right next to the Main Street Ferry Terminal, between the Oakland Estuary and the Dog Park, is the Navy’s cleanup Site 28, also known as the Todd Shipyards site.  The contamination at this site — copper and arsenic, and to a lesser extent lead and hydrocarbons — was not the result of Navy activities, even though the Navy owns the property.

Background

Filling in the land with estuary dredge soil contaminated with hydrocarbons from the coal gasification plant that once operated in Oakland was likely responsible for the petroleum-related hydrocarbons in the ground.  The Alameda Mole Railroad operated along this route from 1883 until 1939 and was also a possible contributor to the hydrocarbon residue in the soil.  Non-Navy shipbuilding and repair between 1941 and the 1980s was responsible for lead, arsenic, and copper contamination.

According to the Navy fact sheet, “The property was leased to various entities for non-Navy shipbuilding and repair between 1941 and 1970. The property was purchased from the Navy in 1970 by the Todd Shipyards Corporation, which used the land as an extension of its adjoining shipyard property until 1983, when the property was then sold to Alameda Gateway Limited.  The IR Site 28 portion of the former shipyard reverted to Navy ownership in 1995.”

Paint used on ships

The copper contamination came from paint used on the bottoms of ships.  The paint was an anti-fouling paint that served to prevent the growth of barnacles.  Copper in the paint acted as the biocide, which is why possible leaching into the estuary is a big concern.

Emerging cleanup technology

Todd Shipyard/Site 28 groundwater monitoring well. Alameda Main Street Ferry Terminal in background.

Even though the Navy did not cause the contamination, they are responsible for the cleanup, which it performed in 2010.  They are also responsible for monitoring the groundwater for 10 years to make sure their methods are permanent.  Some of the methods used here were straightforward:  Digging up soil and replacing with new soil.

The copper at groundwater level, however, is being dealt with by an emerging technology called metals immobilization.  In this process a proprietary non-toxic compound is injected into the ground to bind to the copper and cause it to be absorbed into soil particles, which will prevent it from leaching into the estuary and harming aquatic life.  Hence, the term immobilization – the copper is no longer mobile, or able to move.  Water and natural microbes in the ground are what activates this immobilization compound.  A helpful byproduct of this reaction is that food (carbon) for natural microbes is released, further enhancing the effectiveness of this process.

So-called emerging cleanup technologies are halfway between experimental and mainstream.  They have been proven effective in the short term, or in some locations, but have not been in widespread use long enough to be considered 100% effective in every soil type.  No one knows for certain if the binding effect will hold, but pilot lab tests were done on soil from Site 28, and the Navy and regulators fully expect it will work.  If groundwater monitoring indicates that it’s not working, the Navy will have to come up with another plan since there is no statute of limitations on their responsibility for cleanup.

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Precision Dredging at the Pier Area – with video


Dredging at Pier 1 - Alameda Point

Designing the workplan for dredging toxic sediment next to Pier 1 at Alameda Point required precision so as not to undermine the stability of the concrete posts supporting the roadway that passes along the pier area.  The ground under the water slopes down nearly 40 feet from the cement parking slab adjacent to Wharf Road.  Six-foot sediment core samples were obtained during investigations.  The varying depths of contamination were charted and used to plot a computer program showing a slope profile that not only would accomplish cleanup, but also maintain the stability of Wharf Road.  This means that in some case they are dredging deeper than the contamination.

Dredging toxic mud at the pier area, in what is known as Site 24, got underway in early January 2012.  The Maritime Administration had to temporarily vacate this berth.  Prior Navy activities east of the pier area, which used solvents, paints, sandblasting materials, and hydrocarbons such as fuels and lubricants, led to contamination when waste products, including pesticides, were disposed of down three storm water drains.  The contamination chemicals of concern are cadmium, pesticides, lead, and PCBs.  The dredging process requires two methods – vacuuming mud from under the wharf road that is supported by concrete posts, and dredging with a clamshell scoop in the open water.

Vacuuming mud under roadway

Raft with dredging pump. Hose connects to 4" valve at rear for vacuum dredging under wharf.

The first stage of work, now completed, was vacuuming mud from under the roadway. The specially built dredge pump, equipped with an agitator where the hose contacts the mud, was held in position by a barge-mounted crane that was custom built for this application.  The mud went through a large hose, across the roadway, into a drainage basin and into special geotextile tubes that retain the mud.

The water that drained off of the mud, however, was too muddy to immediately send to a filtration system.  It was first pumped into a large above ground pool of water in order to dilute it.  From there the water was pumped through a series of filtration tanks.  The water is being used for dust control and can also be pumped back into the harbor.

Open water precision dredging

Open water dredging. Sediment deposited into dump truck.

The open water dredging is conducted from a barge using a special clamshell scoop that allows virtually no mud to drip out of the jaws when hoisted out of the water.  This helps to minimize dispersing fine contaminated sediment in surrounding water, which could necessitate repeat dredging.  The scoops of mud are held in the air for about 30 seconds to drain the water before being hoisted over to a dump truck.  The trucks are driven a few hundred yards to a special drying pad to dump the mud.  As the dredge barge moves out of arms length of the wharf, it will have to deposit the mud in a hopper barge that will then be moved next to the wharf where the mud will be unloaded and put into the dump trucks.

Yellow boom holding turbidity curtain to contain disturbed mud, with raft containing turbidity sensors.

The operator of the dredging rig has a real time computer picture of the contour of the underwater ground surface.  The image is aided by positioning sensors on the scoop.  This allows the operator to follow precisely the slope design.  There is also a floating curtain to keep any disturbed contamination within the work area.  At the curtain boom and outside the work area are two floating rafts that detect turbidity, or muddiness, in the water.  These rafts send real time measurements to the dredge operator.  If the turbidity exceeds a certain limit, the dredging is temporarily halted.

Although the Navy periodically dredged the berthing areas for ship and submarine access when the base was open, their dredging was not able to get close to the wharf or under it, leaving the current legacy of contamination.   In the health risk assessment conducted by the Navy, they used the Least Tern as an indicator species since they are the most sensitive birds to forage here, and protecting them would therefore protect all other birds.  Fish consumption by humans was also used to determine that remediation was warranted.  The investigation process that led to this dredging project began with sediment core samples collected in 2005 and 2006.  About 4,000 cubic yards of mud will be dredged.

 

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Where Alameda Point’s cleanup is at year’s end

 

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The past year had some high points and low points in the cleanup process at Alameda Point.  Added delays, including a pile-driving surprise, were balanced out by steady progress.

The year saw, among other things, completion of a second Point-wide radiological survey of buildings and structures that identified two building interiors needing radium remediation, a new soil scan for radium on a section of the western runway area, replacement of a storm drain segment next to the Seaplane Lagoon, and preparation of the environmental document for the Berkeley Lab site, which will be useful whether we get the Lab or not.

Northwest Territories - Site 1 dump area, partly covered by runway

The contractor preparing to cover the old dump with rocks and soil at the northwest tip of Alameda Point delivered some embarrassing news to the Navy.  In the normal course of their duties, work-plan design testing revealed that the shape of part of the contamination did not match the official description.  You would think they could just process a work-order change.  But the Superfund law requires an additional two-year review process, which will push the completion of this open space opportunity to 2015.

At another cleanup project, the Navy drove over four dozen 30-foot steel electrodes into the ground to heat up the toxins and capture the vapor.  But before turning on the electricity, the contractor discovered they had hit a sewer line.  The project has since been idle for months awaiting a decision on how to proceed.

Seaplane Lagoon dredge dewatering pad - northwest corner

The big Seaplane Lagoon dredging project that began in January is certainly one of the most dramatic displays of cleanup.  Both the northeast and northwest corners of the lagoon were supposed to have been dredged by April and final soil disposal completed by year’s end.  But the contractor failed to meet the deadline and was let go.  A new contractor has been testing and removing existing soil, as well as doing extensive set-up over the past two months for the dredging of the northwest corner that will begin in January.

Another dredging project has just begun under the dock area next to the maritime ships.  They’re removing mud contaminated from two storm drain lines.  That project is on schedule.  It’s worth visiting the area to get a glimpse of the elaborate engineering needed to capture and clean water runoff from the mud.

Shinsei Gardens low-income housing located above ongoing groundwater cleanup

Less dramatic and seldom seen work is always ongoing.  Groundwater is monitored at cleanup sites to ensure cleanup goals are being met.  One example is the monitoring of the removal of benzene and naphthalene under Shinsei Gardens and vicinity.

Evidence of the Petroleum Program is also seldom seen, other than some white PVC pipes in the ground.  But besides the big fuel extraction projects, there is ongoing testing of pipelines and oil/water separators in order to develop a remedial plan.

Finally, and perhaps most important, getting the first, very large, no-cost land conveyance from the Navy next year appears to be on schedule.  To help make it happen, the Navy and regulators are planning on modifying cleanup goals by enacting restrictions against future ground-floor residential development near the east entrance to Alameda Point.

Originally published in the Alameda Journal.

Radium Scanning Process at Seaplane Lagoon

Radiation scanner with Seaplane Lagoon in background
Testing compartments for metals, PCBs, and DDT

Every scoop of dirt that was dredged from the Seaplane Lagoon earlier this year is first sorted into premeasured compartments.  The piles are then tested for heavy metals, PCBs, and pesticides.  But the piles cannot be tested for radium 226.

In order to test for radium, every pile has to be scooped back into a dump truck, dumped into a screening area the size of a tennis court, and graded smooth to a depth no greater than 12 inches.

Grading soil for the radiation scanner

Then an electric vehicle with a scanning rig and GPS mapping system drives back and forth over every inch at the pace of a turtle.  If any radiation is detected, it is mapped onto a computer, and then this area is scooped up and placed in a special dumpster.  This already time-consuming process was slowed even more with unexpected rains in the fall because the soil cannot be scanned for radiation when it’s wet.

There are no final numbers on how many dumpster loads have gone to a radiological disposal facility.  Most of the other soil, however, that was tested for heavy metals, PCBs, and pesticides is not even leaving Alameda Point it now meets screening standards for clean soil, and it’s being hauled out to the runway area to eventually be reused to cover the old dump known as Site 2.

Recycled soil stockpiled on Wildlife Refuge for use on Site 2 dump.

2012 – More Dredging

When the existing piles of dirt are all gone in a few weeks, it might seem like they are finally done.  But they won’t be.  In January, the second phase of dredging begins on the northwest corner of the Seaplane Lagoon.

SF Bay Estuary Plan Fails to Connect with Alameda Point

Dredging Alameda Point Channel around the clock

On Sunday, November 11, 2011, Dutra Dredging wrapped up five weeks of maintenance dredging in the channel leading to the Alameda Point docks.  This channel is on the south side of Alameda Point where the maritime ships and USS Hornet are docked.  Half of the dredge soil went to the in-bay disposal site at Alcatraz.  The other half, unfortunately, was towed 50 miles out into the ocean—past the Farallon Islands—for disposal at a federally approved disposal site.  A multi-agency effort to divert dredge material to beneficial reuse in the Bay and Delta proved ineffective in this case. Continue reading “SF Bay Estuary Plan Fails to Connect with Alameda Point”

Case Study – Soil Cleanup Process at Island High/Woodstock Child Development Center

Island High School

A Case Study in How the Cleanup Process Works

In November of 2008, after years of testing, evaluation, and one emergency soil removal action, the Navy issued the final report on what to do in the area where Island High School and Woodstock Child Development Center are located.  The area is designated Installation Restoration (IR) Site 30. The Navy’s conclusion, or proposed plan, was that no further action is required.

The following description of the process is taken from the Navy’s 2008 report and proposed plan.  It serves as a case study in how the cleanup process is conducted with regard to soil. Highlighted terms are defined in the “Cleanup Glossary” located on the tab bar above. Continue reading “Case Study – Soil Cleanup Process at Island High/Woodstock Child Development Center”

Berkeley Lab Site Environmental Plan Released

Looking toward Berkeley Lab site.
Conceptual buildout for Lab 2nd campus

The Site Management Plan (SMP) for the proposed site of the Berkeley Lab Second Campus at Alameda Point was finalized on November 18.  Prepared by the city’s longtime environmental consultant, and signed off on by the Navy and regulatory agencies, the document was prepared in order to mitigate potential risks associated with development of the 45-acre parcel near the ship docks. Its primary purpose is to provide direction to construction contractors and workers so that their digging, dewatering, and soil handling activities do not jeopardize the environment or the health of the surrounding community.

Crash Course on Cleanup

The document offers a crash course on the 20-plus years of environmental cleanup of the area, including areas that barely intersect the Site on the margins.  Even if the area were never to have been polluted by Navy activities, the SMP would still be required because of a decade-old city ordinance governing digging into a subsurface layer called the Marsh Crust that contains petroleum-related pollution.

What is the Marsh Crust?

Before 1900, the areas now occupied by Alameda Point and Bayport were tidal marshlands. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, before the health effects of industrial pollution were known, two industries nearby dumped their waste into the water. One of those industries was a coal gasification plant in Oakland.  The other was the Pacific

Alameda in 1915

Coast Oil Refinery located at what was then the tip of Alameda, not far from Encinal High School. Much of the petroleum-related waste, classified as polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), settled in the marsh.  Between 1900 and 1940, these marshlands were filled with dredge material to create more land.

PAH contamination created the “marsh crust” layer at four to fifteen feet below ground surface, which is a thin layer of PAHs and oil believed to come from historical waste discharges prior to infill.

No one was concerned about this marsh crust caused by former private industrial activity until the Navy decided to close down the base.

Underground testing

By the time the Navy was ready to close down the base, including the area that is now Bayport and the future Alameda Landing, soil boring and groundwater testing was routine.  Underground tests in the late 1990s are what led to the Remedial Action Plan and Record of Decision that were signed in 2000.  (If these documents were drafted today, they would probably have the term “carbon sequestration” in them because this carbon waste is best left where it is – sequestered in the earth.)

Those two documents led to the creation of Alameda’s “permit-before-you-dig” Marsh Crust Ordinance.  The city’s ordinance requires a permit only for digging projects that dig deep enough to potentially encounter the marsh crust — that is, for digging deeper than the threshold depth.  The ordinance is in place so that excavated soil containing petroleum-related waste is properly handled.  The Marsh Crust extends from the Bayport/Main Street area about halfway out onto the Point at 4 to 15 foot depths.  A significant portion of the proposed Lab site (see maps below) does not have any Marsh Crust underneath.

Cleanup of Navy contamination at Site in final stages

Some work, including groundwater remediation, is in the final stages.  And some groundwater is past the active remediation stage and now in the stage during which contaminants will be degraded by natural processes.

The land will be cleaned to commercial standards ahead of the Lab’s timeline for occupancy. If any digging, trenching or excavating encounters a treatment zone, then more stringent handling procedures and protocols would come into play.

It will be the duty of the contractors to develop a site-specific Health and Safety Plan for their workers based on the disclosures in the Site Management Plan.  These health and safety plans have to be submitted to the Navy and regulatory agencies for review.

The Protocols

The SMP describes the protocols for handling soils from the Marsh Crust, such as dust and erosion control.  The SMP includes protocols for dewatering excavated soil, handling of asbestos and lead-based paint during building demolition, and an air monitoring system.  In certain areas, vapor intrusion measures will be required, which could include a vapor barrier, passive venting systems under slabs, and podium-level (partially above-ground) garages with natural venting.

Paint stripping building (Building 410) with white cleanup pipe stubs in ground.  Active cleanup completed.  Looking northwest.

Navy’s Environmental Investigations

The Navy began comprehensive investigations of the area being offered to the Lab starting in the late 1980s.  They analyzed for metals, petroleum-related compounds, PCBs, pesticides, chemicals that evaporate, and a form of hydrocarbon called PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.)  More than a dozen above ground storage tanks containing paint stripping chemicals and fuel were removed from the area.  Underground fuel storage tanks from an adjacent area were excavated.  Soil has been excavated.  Leaked jet and diesel fuel has been removed using vapor extraction, chemical neutralizers, and bioremediation.  Monitoring wells and former injection/extraction wells (evident as PVC stubs in the ground) dot the area.

Concerted Cleanup Effort

Considering the contamination history, the concerted cleanup effort over the past two decades, starting before the EPA became involved, has come a long way.  The suitability of the site for commercial or residential uses has been, or will be, satisfied by the remediation programs under the Comprehensive Environmental Response and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Petroleum Program.  Furthermore, when discounting the fact that no groundwater would ever be used for drinking water, the site would meet the even higher unrestricted residential use standard much sooner.

Alameda’s Proposal for Berkeley Lab 2nd Campus at Alameda Point

Site Management Plan for proposed Berkeley Lab 2nd Campus at Alameda Point

Berkeley Lab parcel at Alameda Point. Top of outline area designated for first phase of Lab buildout; red area is for second phase.

City of Alameda Marsh Crust Page

Marsh Crust Map - Four irregular outlines emanating from right side indicate various depths.