Radioactive radium waste not an issue The massive pile of dredge mud that has been sitting between the Seaplane Lagoon and the hangars is now dry enough to be tested to determine the exact contaminant profile and hauled away.
The contaminant of greatest concern to community has been radium-226, the radioactive ingredient once used to make aircraft dials glow in the dark. Testing revealed that the sediment did not contain elevated radium levels and therefore would not need to be disposed of at a special radioactive waste site. There were several solid objects, referred to as “buttons,” that were found which contained elevated radium. Those objects and the surrounding soil were removed for special disposal.
The piles of dredge soil neatly arranged and numbered next to the old Control Tower are waiting to be hauled away to a hazardous waste disposal site.
Wildlife Refuge Truck Route
In addition to trucking dredge soil to a hazardous waste site, there is a large mound of asphalt that is being trucked onto the wildlife refuge and out to an area where clean soil and fill material is being stored for future use. This asphalt is from a temporary pad that the Navy laid down in the dredge soil dewatering area. It was covered with plastic and not contaminated, and now it is no longer needed.
Early this year the Navy began its dredging project to remove contaminated sediment from the northeast and northwest corners of the Seaplane Lagoon. The Seaplane Lagoon ranked as one of the worst PCB sites in the Bay Area according to a regional Water Board study. Continue reading “Seaplane Lagoon Dredging Update”
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?”
Radioactive alarm bells went off for many peoplewhen 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”
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 – 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 capon 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.