Community Window on the Hunters Point Shipyard Cleanup
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Like most industrial sites, activities on the Shipyard generated different types of hazardous waste, some of which contaminated the soil, groundwater and buildings. Before the Navy can return the property to the City, they have to investigate all areas that they think could be contaminated and ensure that the property is clean and safe for future uses.

The Shipyard was one of the Navy’s radiologically-oriented facilities. The Shipyard was home to the Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory (NRDL), which coordinated much of the Navy's early research on radioactive materials and their impacts. The NRDL was also involved in the repair of nuclear powered ships at Dry Dock #4 (Parcel C).  These activities and the decontamination of ships associated with Pacific atomic and thermonuclear weapons testing generated radiological material and waste. The Shipyard also consolidated radioactive waste from other facilities, including the University of California, Mare Island Naval Shipyard, and McClellan Air Force Base (near Sacramento).

While most of the waste was dumped in the Pacific Ocean at the Farralone Islands 15 miles west of San Francisco, some was disposed of on-site. The Navy is currently involved in an investigation intended to identify and remove any radiological contamination still on the Shipyard.

Sandblasting was one method used in an attempt to decontaminate ships that returned from Operation Crossroads. Operation Crossroads was an atomic test conducted in the Bikini Atoll in the summer of 1946. Of the approximately 180 ships that were involved, 18 target and observation vessels were decontaminated at Hunters Point Shipyard.

Historical Radiological Assessment

On February 25, 2004, the Navy released the Draft Final Historical Radiological Assessment, Volume II, History of the Use of General Radioactive Materials, 1939-2003, Hunters Point Shipyard, also known as the HRA. The HRA provides an overview of the how the Shipyard participated in the Navy’s radiological programs, the sites used for radiation work on the base, and how radioactive materials were handled and disposed of since the Navy started using the property in 1939.
To produce the HRA, the Navy reviewed historical documents, interviewed former Shipyard employees, and conducted some investigations in the field. As a result of their research, the Navy identified 90 sites on the Shipyard as being potentially radiologically impacted, 26 of which have already been investigated and were found to have no contamination. The HRA recommends further investigation for 58 of the 90 impacted sites on the Shipyard. The Navy is currently developing a plan to prioritize the investigations at these sites and to begin cleanup, as necessary.

In order to properly address the issue, Arc Ecology's Community Window on the Shipyard worked with Radioactive Waste Management Associates to review the Draft Final HRA. A comprehensive analysis of the report was prepared and sent to the Navy with Arc Ecology's comments on the HRA. A fact sheet that summarizes the HRA was also prepared. Both the fact sheet and Arc Ecology's comments can be found in our on-line library: http://www.communitywindowontheshipyard.org/cleanupguide/index.htm.

One of the many labs associated with NRDL activities on the Shipyard.

Why did the Navy re-do the HRA for Hunters Point?

The first draft of the HRA for Hunters Point came out in March 2002. The Navy received a great deal of critical comments from the regulating agencies (state and federal branches of the EPA) as well as from the City and concerned community members. In general, people felt the report was missing a lot of information and did not present the whole picture. The Navy was required to respond to these comments and fill in the gaps that people pointed out. Since then, the Navy found much more documentation regarding Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory activities, which they reviewed in order to prepare the latest version.

When will the latest HRA be available for public review?

The Draft Final Historical Radiological Assessment, Volume II, History of the Use of General Radioactive Materials, 1939-2003 for Hunters Point Shipyard was released on February 25, 2004. The official public comment period ended on April 29, 2004, however public comments are always accepted. Copies of the HRA are available for review at the Community Window's Information Repository (4634 Third Street, San Francisco, 94124) or at the City of San Francisco Main Library or the Bayview/Anna E. Waden Branch Library. The Navy has prepared a public summary of the document, which can be found at:http://www.efdsw.navfac.navy.mil/Environmental/pdf/HRA-PublicSummary-0204.pdf

For more information about the history of NRDL activities at Hunters Point, read Lisa Davis' "Fallout" series in SF Weekly: http://www.sfweekly.com/issues/2002-07-31/feature.html/1/index.html

For information about general radiation contamination, its potential health effects, and how it enters the environment, try these sites:

U.S. EPA Office of Air and Radiation -
http://www.epa.gov/radiation/

The Health Physics Society of the University of Michigan - http://www.umich.edu/~radinfo/index.htm



 

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