Navy plan to destroy wetlands lacks scientific backing

Most Alamedans have read about the Navy’s plan for upgrading and expanding wetlands at Alameda Point where a regional park is planned. Unexpectedly, however, and behind closed doors, a single advisory staff member at a state agency halted the approved wetland expansion plan. He did so as work was already underway, and over 7,000 truckloads of soil had been delivered to upgrade the site. The controversy centers on the health risk that radium-226 luminescent paint waste artifacts may or may not pose to park visitors.

Alameda Post podcast highlights of the story – Friday, January 20, 2023.

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Navy recruiting volunteers for Alameda Point cleanup board

The Navy is seeking new members to serve on its volunteer Restoration Advisory Board (RAB), which reviews and comments on environmental cleanup of the former Navy base.  The Navy is also conducting an online community survey to better understand the interests and concerns about the environmental cleanup at the base.

Despite all the new construction at Alameda Point, there are still a variety of cleanup issues for the Navy and regulators to address.  Some issues are new, some involve the long-term monitoring of sites that maxed out the active remediation methods and now rely on natural biological degradation of the remaining contaminant.  And sometimes ongoing monitoring results show that the remediation has not sufficiently reduced a contaminant.  This leads to follow-up work plans, which are vetted by the RAB.

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Navy to lock down PFAS in groundwater with carbon

The Navy is ramping up plans to inject a state-of-the-art powdered charcoal product into PFAS-contaminated groundwater at Alameda Point, according to an October 13, 2022, cleanup document posted on the California Department of Toxic Substances Control website.  The project will take place at a small area where Navy firefighters trained with PFAS-containing fire suppression foam next to the Oakland Estuary.  The goal is to prevent the migration of PFAS into the Oakland Estuary.

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Jet fuel cleanup relies on laundry detergent booster

Draining jet fuel from Navy planes, known as defueling, was a routine step before doing maintenance work on the planes.  This defueling process at Alameda Point inadvertently contaminated groundwater at one location across the street from the Pottery Barn Outlet on West Oriskany Avenue.  During February, the Navy’s cleanup contractor conducted a form of industrial-scale in-ground chemotherapy known as oxidation. 

The injected chemical compound breaks apart the fuel molecules, turning them into harmless carbon dioxide, water, and oxygen.  The main ingredient in this oxidation process is sodium percarbonate, the same active ingredient in OxyClean™ laundry whitener and stain remover, albeit with a different objective.

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Mia Bonta introduces fix to Surplus Lands Act for Alameda Point

An amendment to the California Surplus Lands Act that went into effect in January 2020 brought long-term leasing and land sales at Alameda Point to a screeching halt for two years.  The new law mandated that no government-owned land could be sold, or leased for more than a year, without first offering the land to affordable housing providers on a state clearinghouse.  After the city listed six initial sites on the clearinghouse, the process ended in January 2022 without yielding one single unit of additional housing of any type.

In an effort to remedy the flawed law, Assembly Member Mia Bonta has introduced legislation to exempt Alameda Point from the process, citing the agreement with the Navy to follow the community base reuse plan.  Under the current process, it forces Alameda to entertain ad hoc changes, such as offering to place housing in job-generating commercial zones.  The Community Reuse Plan for Alameda Point adopted in 1996 spells out the types of uses for all of the areas, and the Navy has been conducting environmental cleanup based on those agreed-upon uses.   

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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.

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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.

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