Radium Discovered at Naval Shipyard Site in SF Worries Community

A naval deck marker containing radium was discovered earlier this week at the former U.S. Navy shipyard site in San Francisco's Hunters Point, California Department of Public Health officials said in a letter to homeowners in the neighborhood on Thursday.

In a letter to The San Francisco Shipyard Homeowners Association, state health officials revealed that a deck marker measuring 1.5 inches in diameter was found on the north side of the site's Parcel A, in an undeveloped area behind a fence.

The marker was discovered by contractors being supervised by state health officials under about 10 inches of soil. The contractors scanned the soil around where the deck marker was discovered and found no radiation.

State health officials said results from the scanning, which have the potential to detect even low levels of radiation, indicate residents are not at risk for any health or safety hazards, but that does not take away from their worry.

Seray and Theo Ellington are counting the days to the birth of their first child, but they worry about the family's health and safety.

"We’re getting ready for the baby in the best way we can but you can only be so ready when you’re potentially surrounded by radioactive material," said Seray. 

Parcel A is currently being scanned after it was alleged earlier this year that Tetra Tech, the firm paid $1 billion by the U.S. Navy in 2002 to rid the area of radiation, falsified soil samples.

The scanning project at the parcel is more than 90 percent complete, state health officials said.

Markers containing radium were used around the 1950s by U.S. armed forces to provide low-level light at night.

The naval marker is one of eight anomalies discovered at the site, according to the letter.

Tetra Tech has denied that it falsified soil samples, even though in December 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, along with other state agencies, independently reviewed a report by the Navy on the cleanup and found signs of potential falsification, manipulation and data quality concerns.

In May, it was revealed that two former Tetra Tech employees, Stephen Rolfe and Jason Hubbard, each pleaded guilty in federal court in San Francisco to one count of falsification of records. Both Rolfe, 65, and Hubbard, 48, have been sentenced to eight months in prison.

Also in May, attorney Charles Bonner filed a lawsuit on behalf of more than 40,000 plaintiffs, all Hunters Point and Bayview residents, accusing Tetra Tech of "blatant, conscious, callous disregard of Bayview Hunters Point residents' lives, born and unborn" and "unfair and fraudulent business practices." The suit is seeking $27 billion in damages.

Longtime Hunters Point residents have complained of suffering from illnesses such as cancer and asthma because of the alleged contaminated soil

A separate lawsuit filed in July by residents at The San Francisco Shipyard, the newly built residential neighborhood on Parcel A, alleges that homeowners were duped into buying homes on contaminated land and that Tetra Tech and Lennar Inc. marketed the 350 homes, costing about $1 million each, to the prospective buyers as clean and safe.

"Nobody in their right mind should buy a house here anymore," said Bradley Angel from the Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice.

Environmentalists and residents are now demanding a full re-testing of the entire Shipyard & a halt to anymore building there.

"This is less about property values, this is about the health of our family," said Seray. "It's way more important to us to have a healthy baby."

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