Hunters Point Superfund Site May Not Get Full Cleanup

by Shannon Kelleher

A full cleanup may not materialize for the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco, a Superfund site since 1989, according to a memo the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released on September 30th. The memo, which was directed to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and other groups, implied that the site may remain unfit for unrestricted residential use after the cleanup concludes. The radioactive waste-contaminated shipyard is located within Bayview-Hunters Point, a low-income community of color with high asthma and cancer rates.

PEER said in a press release that the memo indicates the cleanup would violate Proposition P, a voter initiative calling for the agency to fully clean the shipyard. Instead, the memo suggests the cleanup plan may entail relying on land use restrictions and covering contamination with caps.

“Regarding your recommendation that soil radiological cleanup goals be based on an unrestricted use scenario consistent with the City/County of San Francisco’s Proposition P, broadly, EPA’s policy is to achieve protective remedies consistent with reasonably anticipated future land use,” said the EPA memo. “Institutional controls, like land use restrictions, are a common component of Superfund remedies nationwide to ensure protection of human health but also to ensure the integrity of remedies in the long term.”

“They’re sort of tacitly conceding the point that what’s going to be left is well above what should be left according to EPA’s own guidance on Superfund matters,” said PEER Pacific Director Jeff Ruch. “Hunters Point was supposed to be the biggest commercial redevelopment since the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. If it’s not cleared for unrestricted use, it’s not clear to what extent it’s going to be usable.”