Retesting for radiation at Hunters Point
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
Building 401: Building 439: Building 411: Building 366: Building 351: Building 351A: