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Point Being: Clean ups and downs

Submitted by on 1, February 22, 2011 – 12:03 amOne Comment
Dredging barge in Seaplane Lagoon. Navy photo.

By Richard Bangert

Cleanup at Alameda Point continues to unfold. Every month the Restoration Advisory Board meets to stay apprised of the happenings and offer comments. The public is invited to attend on the first Thursday of the month, 6:30 p.m. at the rear of City Hall West at Alameda Point. Here are some highlights from the February meeting and a “Point Being” video update on the Seaplane Lagoon.

Site 1 burn area near Alameda Point’s Western shore. Photo taken during 2010 tour.

Site 1

There’s a glitch in the ditch at Site 1 out at the northwestern tip. This is one of two of the Navy’s industrial dumps (aka disposal sites – the other one being Site 2 to the south on the Wildlife Refuge), and plans were on the calendar to begin the remediation plan on the 30-acre Site 1, which is set to become recreational open space, this year. But instead of 2013, it will now be 2015 before we are throwing Frisbees, riding the Bay Trail, or launching kayaks on the windy, incomparable western shore.

The plan was, and still is, to install a four-foot engineered soil cap on top of the site, after digging out and hauling away refuse from the burn area, where things like railroad ties were burned, which makes up a small part of the site. But as the Navy contractor was doing prep work for a detailed work plan, they discovered that the old burn area is larger than expected and that soil under the burn area “exceeded remediation goals,” which at the very least means more testing to find out what else is there.

The revelation comes as something of an embarrassment to the Navy and the regulators. After amassing over 43,000 pages of data, reports and analysis over the course of a decade for this one dump, inspection methods failed to identify all the mysteries that lie below. The inspection process is called site characterization and is at the center of almost every discussion. 

Addressing the added work, however, is more complicated than a simple work order change. The Record of Decision (ROD) issued in November 2009, which lays out the cleanup work to be done, is part of the Superfund process and must contain an accurate description of contamination. It has to be amended, and this can take up to a year and a half.

Underground petroleum remediation at former fuel transfer site near East Gate, 2009. Photo by Richard Bangert.
Underground petroleum remediation completed, February 2011. Photo by Richard Bangert.

Petroleum Program

There are 251 petroleum sites above and below ground at Alameda Point. One of the most easily visible sites is just to the right of the landscape island at the East Gate. The remediation of the underground fuel contamination here was recently completed. The pipes that were snaking around the property have been removed, leaving only pipe stubs in the ground. Whether there will be a monitoring period, and how long, before construction can take place will be determined later this year.

Even though there are all of these petroleum sites, the petroleum program here and elsewhere in the country is not part of the Superfund/CERCLA process. The stated goal for this waiver of the process is that it provides a less cumbersome regulatory approval process – the chemicals are familiar, and the available cleanup options are straightforward – so the cleanup process could move faster.

The Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) gets regular updates from the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board (the Water Board), which is the lead agency for the petroleum program and also part of the overall cleanup regulatory team for Alameda Point. Fifty-four petroleum sites are “closed,” which sounds like “off limits,” but really means completed. One hundred thirty-three sites need additional work.

Seaplane Lagoon

The dredging operation reported on earlier on The Island at the northeast and northwest corners of the Seaplane Lagoon is on an expedited 24/7 schedule. The dredging work needs to be completed before the endangered Least Terns arrive at the Wildlife Refuge in April. Projected completion date for dredging is March 15. The Terns feed in the lagoon, and the dredging would have to cease during the nesting season if not completed. The yellow booms around the two work areas have a curtain hanging from them to contain mud turbulence.

Coming up

Missed radium-226-contaminated sewer pipe under the Sports Complex property? Demolition estimate on the massive million-square-foot Building 5. And more progress on cleanup.

The Navy has spent $450 million on Alameda Point cleanup so far, which includes $100 million committed but not yet spent. They’ll need another $96 million before completion, and they expect to be funded at roughly $30 million a year.

One Comment »

  • Francis says:

    so about $550 million to be spent on cleanup. when a major component of the efforts means simply doing nothing (just letting rain & groundwater dilute & ‘wash away’ contaminants).
    and a single B-2 bomber costs over $1 billion.
    but oh, i forgot, the price of the bomber benefits someone with MUCH more political clout than a town of 70,000.

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