Government Stalls Hunters Point Development Due to Radiation Concerns

Several agencies put a hold on the transfer of Navy land for development, following a series of NBC Bay Area investigations into cleanup contractor Tetra Tech.

Hunters Point is a scenic, yet controversial piece of land in San Francisco and it appears to be hitting a roadblock to redevelopment. Several government agencies have agreed to put a hold on land transfers at the former naval shipyard due to concerns over radiation.

The government is investigating Navy contractor Tetra Tech, the company hired to clean up radiation at Hunters Point.

In a letter sent to the Navy earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control reiterated an agreement that the Navy would not propose any further transfers of the property for redevelopment.

The agencies are awaiting the outcome of government investigations into Tetra Tech or “other Navy action necessary to clarify the actual potential public exposure to radioactive material at and near the [Hunters Point Naval Shipyard].”

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Malia Cohen sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy earlier this week explaining that the city “will not accept the transfer of any land until regulators are satisfied that the land is clean and safe” and the city’s health department validates the decision.

“The safety of our residents and workers is paramount,” they write, “and we are committed to a thorough cleanup at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.”

The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit first exposed in 2014 that Tetra Tech mishandled soil samples and falsified radiation data it submitted to the Navy. This summer the Nuclear Regulatory Commission proposed a $7,000 penalty against Tetra Tech after it found the company deliberately falsified soil samples on a number of occasions.

In March, a former worker at the site revealed to the Investigative Unit that his supervisors instructed him to conceal radiation by switching soil samples and dumping potentially contaminated dirt into the ground.

Tetra Tech has won more than $300 million in federal contracts to clean up radiation at the shipyard and make way for future redevelopment including parks, offices and homes. For decades the Navy operated a radiological defense laboratory at the shipyard, where it performed radiation experiments on animals and decontaminated ships exposed to nuclear weapons.

For years Hunters Point community group Greenaction has demanded a “full and proper cleanup” of radioactive and toxic waste. Staff members say it’s about time the government took action following NBC Bay Area’s series of investigations.

“I believe that the role you guys played whether you wanted to our not was you guys exposed the truth,” said Marie Harrison, Greenaction’s community outreach coordinator and longtime Bayview Hunters Point resident. “I think you gave the voice to the community by going in, looking it up, digging in, doing the Freedom of Information Act, following these guys around.”

Tetra Tech did not respond to request for comment.

The master developer of the shipyard, FivePoint – a spinoff of Lennar Corporation – said it will not accept any land until regulatory agencies have agreed it’s suitable for development.

“We absolutely want and expect the Navy to cleanup the Shipyard, and expect that this current review will be conducted thoroughly,” FivePoint’s Northern California president Kofi Bonner wrote in a statement. “This community has waited a long time for this land to be returned to productive uses. We are eager to create new housing, jobs and parks for the community.”

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