Navy seeks comments on plan to end cleanup of plume

Navy seeks comments on plan to end cleanup of plume

Michele Ellson
Alameda Point cleanup

Image courtesy of the Department of the Navy.

The Navy is seeking public input on its decision to halt the cleanup of contaminated groundwater east of Alameda Point after determining the toxins won’t hurt residents, workers or schoolchildren.

The Navy is accepting comments through June 5 on its plan to conduct no further cleanup on the contaminated groundwater plume that sits beneath a portion of the Bayport housing development, the Shinsei Gardens complex, existing and former U.S. Coast Guard housing and the Woodstock Child Development Center site to be occupied by Nea Community Learning Center and Alameda Community Learning Center in the fall.

A public meeting on the plan is scheduled for 5 p.m. May 20 in the Main Library, 1550 Oak Street.

The Navy had been using a variety of methods to clear up the groundwater plume, which contains enough benzene and naphthalene to pose a higher-than-acceptable cancer risk to residents, car wash and landscape workers. But that determination was based in part on a regional water board decision to list the groundwater as possible drinking water, a listing that has since changed.

Later testing found that cleanup efforts conducted between 2009 and 2013 had reduced the amount of the two chemicals in the groundwater plume and also, the size of the plume. Tests conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2013 near the Woodstock Child Development Center site didn’t detect chemicals or groundwater contamination there, and tests for chemical vapors caused by gases in the soil conducted in 2012 also came back clean.

State and federal regulators concur with the Navy’s plan, a summary document says, and the Restoration Advisory Board – the citizens’ board that is overseeing the cleanup effort – also responded positively after being informed cleanup efforts had been halted, in March of 2013.

A final decision on the proposed plan will be made after public comments are considered, the summary document says. The plan could be modified based on what the public has to say about it.

The Navy has been working to clean up Alameda Point – a federal Superfund site – and its environs for more than a decade, spending more than half a billion dollars to date. In addition to military housing, the sites contaminated by the plume also once contained a screening lot and scrap yard, auto maintenance and warehouses.

Comments can be made at the May 20 meeting or in writing, by June 5, to or by mailing them to Robinson at Department of the Navy, BRAC Program Management Office West, 1455 Frazee Road, Suite 900, San Diego, Calif. 92108-4310.

The proposal is attached at the bottom of this post; additional information is available at City Hall West, 950 West Mall Square, at Alameda Point, and at the Main Library.


Submitted by Joseph (not verified) on Wed, May 7, 2014

The extent of the plume needs to be precisely determined and a "brown field" designation established just like they did in Emeryville. This lowers the cleanup standards, requires continuous monitoring, and limits development uses to reduce the health risks to below significant levels. Typically residences, schools, hospitals, etc would be prohibited, while retail, open space, sports facilities, etc. would be permitted. This way the diminishing returns and uncertainty of the cleanup is resolved, and planning can proceed accordingly.

Submitted by Tom (not verified) on Wed, May 7, 2014

Wonder how those who likely will enhabit these areas in 200 years from now ( if not underwater) will view their progenitors decisions?

Submitted by Tom (not verified) on Wed, May 7, 2014

We from Europe and other places take tjis hallowed land and marsh and bay from native cultures, then fill inthe marsh and bay with our industrial dredgings and castoffs of our industrial age, build war machines to fly off the landfill to wage war, then dump our hazardous wastes on site, then decontaminate somewhat and dump the spoils somewhere else, then legislate low risk, then build housing for future humans on the toxic waste mess we generate. Then move to other sites for war machines to pollute. Interesting life cycle for us primates.

Richard Bangert's picture
Submitted by Richard Bangert on Thu, May 8, 2014

Joseph, The extent of the plume has been precisely determined. There is no need to designate this a brown field. The standards have not been lowered, unless you count the fact that groundwater cannot be pumped to the surface. But the groundwater would be impractical to use regardless of the hydrocarbon waste layer. The water is too salty for drinking water, irrigation (it would kill plants), or commercial uses like a car wash. The standards allow for residential use, which is what is planned for the area. The EPA's tests in October of 2013 confirmed what earlier tests showed - that vapors are at non-detectable levels, indoor, outdoor, and under the old high school parking lot.

A key difference between this area and other contaminated groundwater treatment areas is that this problem is not the result of Navy activities or any activities that happened on the present-day land mass. The soil is not saturated or laced with hydrocarbon benzene-releasing substances like oil. The problem is a layer of crusty carbon-y sludge that settled there more or less a hundred years ago from the old coal gasification plant in Oakland back in the days when no one understood or cared about dumping stuff in waterways. It was later covered by fill material to create the present-day land mass.

Submitted by Joseph (not verified) on Thu, May 8, 2014

@Richard, thanks for the useful historic information and link regarding the plume on NAS. Amazingly, coal slurry continues to be recklessly disposed to this day in the east, with significant human costs. Is there any more evidence needed to confirm corporate interests are in firm control of our government and regulatory agencies?

One has to wonder what the effects of rising sea levels in the next 30 years will be on this impervious carbon waste horizon and the perched plume. I suspect it will move laterally.