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”

Video: Alameda Point 2011 Cleanup Update

Dr. Peter Russell, the city’s environmental consultant, made a presentation to the Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Authority on November 2, 2011, updating them on the status of cleanup at Alameda Point.

This video is an edited version with added images.

(Note:  The phrase “closed site” used in the presentation does not mean off limits.  It means active cleanup is finished.)

Cleaning Up Jet Fuel at Building 5

Tanker trucks sucking jet fuel out of the ground next to Building 5. Looking northwest.

Background

The Navy has three cleanup programs at Alameda Point:  Superfund, Petroleum, and Radiological.  The Petroleum Program takes care of underground concentrations of petroleum, mostly jet fuel, and is organized by corrective action areas.  One such area outside Building 5 made it onto the calendar this year.

Dumping jet fuel – Building 5, the largest hangar at the Point, was a busy aircraft maintenance facility.  Petroleum products like jet fuel were often disposed of down a drain, which in this case would have gone to an underground oil/water separator.  A Navy contractor concluded that jet fuel detected in test wells outside of Building 5 on the south side could have leaked either from the oil/water separator, or the drain line, or both.  The area has been designated Corrective Action Area 5B (CAA 5B). Continue reading “Cleaning Up Jet Fuel at Building 5”

Cleaning up a toxic groundwater plume using heat

Hoses carry vapors to large pipe that leads to filter system. Vapors are created using high-temp electrodes that extend 30 feet into the ground. Seaplane Lagoon and San Francisco are in background.

There are various methods to clean up groundwater contaminated with solvents and petroleum products. Beneficial chemicals can be injected to neutralize the toxic chemicals.  Sometimes bacteria, either those naturally present or some that have been added, can do the job.  In some cases at Alameda Point the Navy inserts steel beams called electrodes into the ground that are hooked up to their own power line.  They dial up the power to 1,100 amps (a household electric stove is around 40 amps), and let the heat turn the chemicals into vapor.  This is the method the Navy is using in a limited application just east of the Seaplane Lagoon. Continue reading “Cleaning up a toxic groundwater plume using heat”