by Carol Harvey
The Navy is withholding from San Francisco taxpayers that, to jump-start billions for FivePoint Holdings, a branch of the Lennar corporation, it is fast-tracking Treasure Island redevelopment.
San Franciscans remain uninformed that because the Navy is conducting 20 simultaneous building demolitions and site excavations, 39 chemical digs, and 820 radiation, arsenic and petroleum removal actions, islanders are currently hard-hit by wind-borne toxins.
As 10-25 mph autumn gusts blast the island, they scoop up dirt specks carrying black mold spores, asbestos fibers and radioactive dirt, along with the heavy metals arsenic and lead.
This Navy map shows 13 chemical digs – for dioxins, BAPs, PCBs and lead – on Treasure Island. – Photo: Carol Harvey
From 2013 to the present, the Navy has discovered and is managing at least 815 low level radiological objects (LLROs) in the Westside Solid Waste Disposal Area (SWDA), along with three LLROs and one huge radiation deposit at Bigelow and Halyburton Court, 20 demolished and excavated buildings, 39 chemical digs of dioxin, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), benzo(a)pyrene and lead scattered throughout the community, and one massive arsenic-total petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH) bubble extraction, which all exposes a grand total of 881 toxic areas to the wind.
Navy contractors demolish 10 buildings in cleanup zones followed by 10 soil extractions
Starburst Barracks: These two huge white asterisk-shaped structures, constructed in the 1970s at the front of the island facing the Bay, are visible from downtown San Francisco.
Starburst Barracks, long abandoned, are said to be haunted by “The Whistling Sailor.” The sprawling four-story barracks have been major landmarks, visible from San Francisco.
In August 2016, the Navy announced it would conduct a total of four Starburst Barracks removals: two building demolitions and two excavations of soil beneath them.
Until September 2016, the green swathe of grass – called the Great Lawn – stretching along the buildings housed earlier, less sophisticated barracks, a 1945-46 prisoner of war camp and, most recently, Marco Cochran’s “Bliss Dance” sculpture.
Thousands of visitors huddle there in swirling dust clouds during the annual Treasure Island Music Festival, the Blue Angel Fleet Week flyover, and the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve fireworks displays. A crowd gathered for the Navy’s recent Harvey Milk ship-naming ceremony, attended by dignitaries involved in redevelopment, Mayor Ed Lee, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.
The Treasure Island Flea Market was relocated to the island’s Berkeley-Oakland side. The two demolitions make its former Great Lawn site unusable. Like New York’s Twin Towers’ 9/11 fly-throughs, mold and asbestos-infested Starburst Barracks’ skeletons rise jagged from the landscape surrounded by uncovered piles of dry wall, twisted wires, plaster dust and dirt.
On Wednesday, Sept. 21, from the Avenue B and Ninth Street bus stop, I videoed these bombed-out structures. In minutes, I grew nauseous, dizzy and faint. When the bus arrived, I escaped and didn’t recover for hours.
I was on the island to interview a Chinook Court resident who described malaise, dizziness, blurred vision, nausea and an alarming fainting spell he attributed to the dust clouds flying into his bedroom window from the demolitions visible across Ninth Street.
San Francisco media, apparently controlled by national, state and local politicians, have not covered these events.
Across the island in areas accessible to residents and the public, the Navy has sped up eight more building demolitions and eight soil excavations under and around foundations, creating 16 more disturbances of chemically- and radiologically-contaminated dirt. Some residents received an undated mailing announcing demolitions and excavations. This leaflet failed to cover the extent of the Navy’s simultaneous removal actions.
Westside Solid Waste Disposal Area (SWDA): The Westside SWDA is a remediation zone that meanders along the western edge of the island facing San Francisco, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge.
These homes, at 1131 and 1133 Mason Court, are currently undergoing demolition. – Photo: Carol Harvey
Townhouse demolitions: 4
Building foundation excavations: 4
The Westside SWDA stretches a half mile behind a green-tarped fence from Ninth Street to Mason Court, following the perimeter path north along the shore facing the city.
Three of four structures to be demolished within Westside SWDA – 1311 and 1315 Gateview Ave. and 1325 Westside Drive – and the four additional excavations to remove contaminants under buildings brings the total of toxic dust disturbances to eight. Removals will occur over a seven-month period in the remediation zone across Gateview Avenue from the Avenue B bus stop. Residents near Sturgeon, Striped Bass and Flounder Courts will be forced to breathe clouds of toxic dust.
On Monday, Sept. 19, 2016, I encountered a worker at 1133 Mason Court, a fourth unoccupied Westside SWDA townhouse behind the northern end of the chain-linked enclosure. He verified the building will soon be demolished, blowing toxins into occupied Mason, Ozbourne and Reeves Court homes and nearby Bayside and Mariner Drive residences.
This is the highly toxic and radioactive Halyburton Court, with Bigelow Court in the background. – Photo: Carol Harvey
Bigelow and Halyburton SWDA:
Total actions: 8
This picture of a Navy map shows the 26 spots all over the community (Site 12) where the Navy did their “small discrete” digs for chemical poisons. – Photo: Carol Harvey
Since the 1950s, four town homes fated for demolition and excavation of poisons beneath them have hunkered on highly toxic radioactive, chemically impacted soil inside Halyburton and Bigelow Court.
The Navy’s flyer stated that between Aug. 15 and Sept. 9, 2016, contractor CB&I will demolish 1100, 1102, 1104 and 1106 Halyburton Court. From Sept. 19 to Nov. 15, 2016, soil beneath these four foundations will be excavated. This raises to eight the total Navy toxic soil disturbances in this remediation zone.
Since Navy families left the island in 1997, civilians cannot rent Bigelow-Halyburton Court townhouses, apparently because the Navy claims that, for five decades, the soil has been full of low level radiological objects (LLROs) and polychromatic hydrocarbons (PCBs), all violent carcinogens.
The four Halyburton Court residences being demolished sit beside formerly excavated 1101-B Bigelow Court, where Navy environmental contractor Don Wadsworth told reporter Vicki Nguyen in a 2013 NBC exposé that technicians from his company, New World Environmental, measured radiation a million times higher than EPA’s human tolerability limits.
A Navy photograph accompanied Nguyen’s article showing a tech kneeling over a geiger counter measuring ~80,000 cpm and ~30 uR/hr, a massive radiation elevation. Felita Sample, who lives 50 feet from 1101-B, suffers from painful kidney disease and tumors.
The man in the yellow vest is passing a geiger counter measuring radiation over 1101-B Bigelow Court, where Don Wadsworth identified radiation at a million times higher than humans can tolerate. – Photo: Carol Harvey
In July 2016, I videoed a CB&I technician passing a geiger counter over soil where 1101-B once stood. This suggests radiological excavations may continue at Bigelow-Halyburton Court, though the Navy insists they ceased.
For years, Navy and civilian kids attended Treasure Island elementary school and the Boys and Girls Club mere feet from the toxic hell-hole that is Halyburton-Bigelow Court. I am in touch with a former a student there, Rachel, a pre-teen when her father was transferred to Treasure Island in the ‘90s. Now a mother, she has suffered three miscarriages with one live birth, a daughter.
Men, women and children residing at Reeves, Hutchins, Keppler and Flounder Courts and Bayside and Mariner Drives nearby have in recent years suffered asthma, hair loss, seizures, strokes, brain fog, weakened immune systems, endometriosis, swelling legs and feet, lung cancer, heart failure, mental and developmental retardation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and the persistent, recurring “Treasure Island cough.” Four residents, including Felita, have sprouted tumors on their arms, backs and shoulders.
Navy contractor CB&I to excavate 881 radiological objects and toxic chemicals from the island
An earthmover behind Liz Washington’s home is trying to remove the dioxins from the soil that her sons used to play in and that have made them chronically sick. – Photo: Liz Washington
In August 2016, the Navy sent island residents the aforementioned undated flyer announcing they are also currently unearthing and exposing 39 chemical-containing digs of dioxins, BAPs, PCBs and lead.
Halyburton-Bigelow Court – PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) chemical extractions: 26
Chemical digs, community-wide among townhouses for Dioxin, PCBs, BAPs (Benzo(a)pyrenes), heavy metal lead; Total:13
Chemical removals: Total 39
According to the Navy flyer, “Although the exact source of the underground contaminants is not known, it is likely due to historical activities during the 1940s to ‘60s such as training, demolition and construction of facilities; gas station operations; maintenance work, storage and waste disposal.”
The flyer downplayed these 39 chemical digs as “small discrete” excavations starting July 25, 2016, and ending nine months later on March 30, 2017. Each excavation, they stated would employ “4-6 people with heavy equipment, large trucks and field vehicles” and “will take no more than 3-5 days to complete.”
The minimization of dioxin clouds thrown up by an earthmover next to Liz Washington’s Avenue B townhouse did not impress Liz and her sons Kevin, 18, and Isaiah, 16, who, during their 14-year childhood, dug in the dirt here, as kids do. Since their boyhoods, both teens suffered continual serious, painful gastrointestinal problems requiring surgical procedures.
Westside Solid Waste Disposal Area (SWDA) – old petroleum and arsenic removal
Before conducting the dig-out for heavy metals and old petroleum, between Oct. 24, 2016, and March 30, 2017, Navy contractor CB&I will demolish three buildings in the Westside SWDA – 1311 and 1313 Gateview Ave. and 1325 Old Westside Drive. Dates of arsenic and old petroleum extractions were unmentioned.
The Navy shows more concern about impacts on the Bay’s aquatic life forms than arsenic and gas-laden dust choking nearby residents.
While former Navy resident, Rachel, lived at 1310-B Gateview Ave. across the street from 1311 and 1313 and the arsenic and old petroleum bubble, this pre-teen suffered ongoing grande mal seizures that continued long after she left the island.
Deep radiological debris excavations from the Westside SWDA at 1321 Old Westside Drive
In a Feb. 23, 2016, Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) meeting, Site 12 project manager Chris Yantos provided a handout reporting, “Since Site 12 field work started (May 2015), 203 LLROs have been extracted and removed.” His leaflet also stated that “the LLROs” “extracted and removed overall at Treasure Island to date” had now risen to a grand total of “813.” It verified that “116 LLROs (were) removed from Disposal Area Westside.”
This close-up of the earthmover shows the toxic dust – here laced with dreaded dioxins – dust so thick it reflects the sun. This extremely toxic dust takes residence in the bodies of Treasure Islanders as they breathe. – Photo: Liz Washington
From below the footprint of demolished unit 1321 Westside Drive, several “deep debris boxes” containing 87 LLROS were unearthed from an excavation project accomplished in an earlier year. Yantos’ crew then radiologically scanned these boxes, and they were removed.
Yantos’ material stated that, since field work had begun there, additional LLROs along with radiologically contaminated soil had been pulled from the dirt out of an unusually large gaping 8-foot “deep waste area.” At another point, he characterized this cavity as being hollowed to a depth of 14 feet. The hole was dug so far down in the earth that to stop soil cave-ins, it had to be buttressed by side rails.
Yantos further verified that “5,390 cubic yards (approximately 9,000 tons) of waste soil has been loaded and hauled off site,” in 397 trucks, at 20-40 per day.
Yantos reported that, “to date, 49 roll-off bins” (capacity 735 cubic yards) have been filled with low-level radiological waste (LLRW). LLRW bins “are transferred to (a) Treasure Island LLRW waste contractor for offsite disposal.” In other words, this radiologically contaminated soil is stock-piled on Treasure Island for a period of time before it is trucked off to the appropriate landfill.
“Soil was disposed offsite at the Clean Harbors facility in Buttonwillow, CA,” stated the handout.
In upcoming work, his crews would finish the “complete debris removal” in the “deep waste area” in and around the Building 1321 footprint.
Following this, the remaining two foundations of former buildings 1319 and 1323 would be completely removed. Finally, his CB&I teams would backfill the “deep waste” “Building 1321 area.”
A former Navy wife who resided at 1321Gateview Avenue during the 1980s immediately over these 116 or more radiological objects has had serious health issues, and her son was born with birth defects.
Last week, Wednesday, Sept. 21, I videoed six CB&I workers digging another very deep hole inside the fence. This suggests the Navy may have discovered additional radiological objects there while the contractor was finalizing this work. It is probable that, when I visited the site that day, I videoed some of this activity through the fence past the bodies of the techs who were doing their best to stand in my way, block my shot and usher me off the site.
At every RAB meeting since February 2016, and again with this new August 2016 mailing, the Navy raises island contaminant totals.
The ongoing dig at Westside SWDA suggests the Navy has found more LLROs, leaving undetermined radiation totals. If the Navy keeps finding additional poisons, how can residents know the total to which they are daily exposed?
12th Street broken pipeline replacement– possible radiation
From February to September 2016, awaiting a broken sewer line repair, a fat, connected green and yellow tube snaked two blocks through the bright green grass along 12th Street from Sturgeon past Striped Bass Street to Avenue B Pump station 14. For eight months, this tube rose from a manhole at the 12th Street-Sturgeon intersection.
Covered only by plywood, the opening breathed indeterminate groundwater toxins onto nearby residents and people walking past. I inquired at the TIDA office and was told only that there was a break in the pipeline.
Finally, eight months later, residents received a notice stating: “TIDA contractor CES (Controlled Environmental Services) will be conducting excavation, installation of a new underground sewer force main, and backfilling in the grassy common area along 12th Street between the pump station at Avenue B and the Sturgeon Street manhole beginning Monday, Sept. 19. This work is to replace the sewer line which broke underneath 1419 Striped Bass earlier this year. Work is expected to be completed by mid-October. Once work is completed, the current pump-around line and associated closure of the Striped Bass at 12th Street intersection will be lifted.”
One sick resident formerly lived at 1419 Striped Bass St. just above the pipeline break. In September 2016, as part of the 39 “small discrete” excavations, CB&I workers shoveled dioxin and benzo(a)pyrene, chemical deposits from leaking underground gas tanks buried in the grassy area across 12th Street at Avenue D 50 to 60 years ago. I wondered whether these chemicals spread through groundwater across this vacant lot leaking into this faulty line up into the resident’s 1419 Striped Bass apartment causing the tumors on his shoulder and back.
On Monday, Sept. 19, I videoed a female worker passing a geiger counter over piles of soil from the trench that a CES earthmover had dug along 12th Street.
The presence of this worker and a technician I videoed in July 2016 at Bigelow Court passing a geiger counter over the empty space where the 1101-B unit stood suggest that the Navy has no idea how much more radiation is buried across Treasure Island.
In summary, if there are an indeterminate, huge number of 881 radioactive objects and toxic chemicals spreading across Treasure Island, why are people still living there and becoming ill?
Summary: Navy blows toxic dirt on Treasure Islanders 62 times
Starburst Barracks: 2
Westside SWDA: 4
Bigelow-Halyburton Court: 4
Demolition totals: 10
Excavations totals: 10
Building demolitions and excavations: 20
Chemical digs, community
Chemical dig totals: 39
West Side Solid Waste Disposal Area: 815
Radioactive LLROs opposite Avenue B bus stop: 116
Radiological objects and heavy metal bubble: 820
12th Street trenching sewage pipeline: 2
Possible toxins: 3
Total toxic objects, radiological and chemical: 881
Total toxic soil disturbances: 62
Carol Harvey is a San Francisco political journalist specializing in human rights and civil rights. She can be reached at email@example.com.