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Forty acres and a …

Submitted by on 1, April 13, 2010 – 4:50 am2 Comments

From the Alameda Open Space website.

As we reported just a few weeks ago, the city has closed escrow on roughly 40 acres of former Alameda Belt Line property and is going through the process to remove its designation as a railroad. One other kinda big set of steps ahead: The city needs to figure out what kind of contamination exists on the property, whether they need to clean it up, how much that will cost – and who will pay for it.

Apparently, the former owners of the Belt Line property were in a bit of a dispute with the folks from Alameda County Environmental Health department over whether they needed to gather more information about potential contamination at the former rail yard, after soil and groundwater samples turned up some elevated levels of lead, oil, gas and solvents. The site, which was marshland before it became a rail line, is still an open county-level contamination case.

A county environmental health official who the city’s consultant interviewed “stated that the (department) is at an impasse with (Alameda Belt Line); ABL reportedly doesn’t believe additional work is needed at the parcels and the (department) doesn’t feel enough site characterization has been conducted to warrant closure,” the consultant, Belinda Blackie, wrote.

“(He) additionally stated that a new property owner would take on responsibility for further characterization of the parcels,” she wrote.

A 1999 report that listed out contaminants discovered at the site recommended “excavation and either off-site disposal, placement beneath a cap, or stabilization of soils with elevated lead concentrations, performance of a risk assessment to evaluate potential health hazards related to lead exposure” in addition to further efforts to seek out additional contaminants that could be there.

According to Blackie, unresolved contamination issues could include:

(F)urther characterization of the extent and source of elevated lead detected, evaluation of the elevated oil concentrations remaining in soil in the vicinity of the spill excavation, evaluation of soil quality in the vicinity of the maintenance and other pits on the parcels, evaluation of the source and quality of fill materials placed into the excavation and pits, evaluation of soil quality in areas where fill from off-site sources was placed on the parcels, presence of heavy metals in blast grit observed on the parcels, possible presence of contaminants in soil resulting from the burning of the maintenance building, evaluation of soil quality along previous railroad tracks, evaluation of soil quality in bare/gravel patch on (one parcel), and investigation into the location of a potential historic (underground storage tank), confirmation of their removal, and possible evaluation of soil and ground water quality in the previous location of the tank(s).

City Attorney Teresa Highsmith said the city is undertaking its own process to see what, if any, cleanup efforts are needed. She said the city could approach Alameda Belt Line for help in paying cleanup costs, though the city doesn’t currently have an agreement in place to do so.

More to come.


  • Scott says:

    I love the positive changes happening to the west end of Alameda. Better late than never. Thanks to tenacity and steadfast vision, residents of this quaint island town can rehabilitate vernal ponds of the Pacific Chorus frog, restore nesting grounds, and enjoy nature in their hard-won community park.

  • ct says:

    1. The county environmental health department believes the Belt Line property requires additional evaluation for contaminants in addition to cleanup.

    2. The parcel’s former owners feel that this is unnecessary but at the same time say that the “new property owner would take on responsibility for further characterization of the parcels.”

    3. City Attorney Highsmith says the City is determining “what, if any, cleanup efforts are needed” and “could approach Alameda Belt Line for help in paying cleanup costs.”

    Sounds like the City’s opinion on this issue is more in line with that of Alameda Belt Line than the Alameda County Environmental Health department. It would be great to see the property turned into parkland; I just hope the City goes about the process in the right way.

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