Retest­ing for ra­di­a­tion at Hunters Point

San Francisco Chronicle (Sunday) - - FROM THE COVER -

Af­ter find­ings of likely fraud in ra­di­a­tion mea­sure­ments at the for­mer Hunters Point Naval Ship­yard, the U.S. Navy said it would retest ar­eas across the site. That process, be­gin­ning with Par­cel G, will in­volve 300,000 cu­bic yards of soil, 31 for­mer build­ing sites and 28 miles of trench lines. The fol­low­ing build­ing sites on Par­cel G are likely con­tam­i­nated with ra­dioac­tiv­ity, ac­cord­ing to past Navy stud­ies: prop­er­ties to paint in­stru­ment di­als and light up the base at night. Hun­dreds of these ra­dium de­vices have been found scat­tered through­out the ship­yard. Just last week, a state worker un­earthed a ra­dium deck marker on the hill­side hous­ing area known as Par­cel A.

Depend­ing on the level of ra­dioac­tiv­ity mea­sured in ma­te­ri­als like soil and con­crete, the ma­te­rial is ei­ther re­moved and hauled to a land­fill, cov­ered with a bar­rier, or left alone.

Un­til re­cently, these cru­cial mea­sure­ments were be­ing gath­ered by Tetra Tech. But, start­ing in 2014, sev­eral ra­di­a­tion tech­ni­cians al­leged that the com­pany was cut­ting cor­ners to save money. Last year, the EPA re­viewed Tetra Tech’s data and found “a wide­spread pat­tern of prac­tices that ap­pear to show de­lib­er­ate fal­si­fi­ca­tion, fail­ure to per­form the work” to spec­i­fi­ca­tions, or both.

Although Tetra Tech has blamed all data prob­lems on what it calls a “ca­bal” of rogue em­ploy­ees, the Navy agreed that many of Tetra Tech’s mea­sure­ments were un­re­li­able.

Ear­lier this year the Navy said it would retest all ar­eas where Tetra Tech did work. It was sup­posed to pro­vide a fresh start, a way to re­turn some clar­ity and pub­lic trust to the cleanup process. In­stead, the retest­ing ef­fort has de­vel­oped into yet an­other bat­tle.

In June, the Navy re­leased a de­tailed work plan out­lin­ing how it will per­form new ra­di­a­tion tests on a 40-acre piece of the ship­yard known as Par­cel G. Slated for 1.7 mil­lion square feet of hous­ing and of­fice space, the par­cel now con­tains six build­ings with ra­dioac­tive his­to­ries where the Navy has said con­tam­i­na­tion is likely.

The work plan is highly tech­ni­cal and dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand, 391 pages full of acronyms and jar­gon. But re­ports like these carry enor­mous power. They de­ter­mine what gets cleaned up as dan­ger­ous waste and what gets de­clared safe enough to leave be­hind.

Al­most im­me­di­ately, the plan for retest­ing Par­cel G set off a cho­rus of ob­jec­tions from ex­perts who say it sets a trou­bling stan­dard for fu­ture retest­ing and shows why the cleanup be­came a mess in the first place.

In­stead of sim­ply check­ing ev­ery ques­tion­able area with the most thor­ough meth­ods avail­able, the Navy is propos­ing some­thing akin to a Rube Gold­berg ma­chine.

Ac­cord­ing to the plan, dif­fer­ent test­ing meth­ods will be

SPEARAVE. (for­mer SFPD train­ing fa­cil­ity) 0 Source: U.S. Navy I S T . MILE De­tail 1/4 M O R E L S T . MANSEAUST. Point Avisadero San Fran­cisco Bay John Blan­chard / The Chron­i­cle

Build­ing 401: Build­ing 439: Build­ing 411: Build­ing 366: Build­ing 351: Build­ing 351A:

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