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Tetra Tech Stands by Hunters Point Radiation Data, Tells Navy ‘We'll Pay' for Third Party Retesting

The company at the center of the radiation cleanup scandal speaks publicly for the first time; denies allegations of widespread misconduct.

Tetra Tech, the Navy contractor hired to clean up radiation at the Hunters Point Shipyard site, says allegations that it potentially falsified radiation data are untrue.

At a news conference Tuesday, the company offered to pay for an independent retesting of the shipyard to prove the cleanup was performed correctly and that it’s safe for redevelopment.

“We are convinced that the results of the retesting we propose to support will demonstrate the validity and accuracy of work,” said William Brownlie, Tetra Tech’s chief engineer and senior vice president of corporate risk management.

The Navy hired Tetra Tech to clean up radiation at the San Francisco superfund site. Tetra Tech collected and tested soil samples over a 12-year period and was awarded a quarter of a billion dollars to remediate contamination.

After a yearlong review of Tetra Tech’s soil sample data, the Navy announced in January that it plans to retest the shipyard. Reviewers found inconsistencies in half of Tetra Tech’s data. The Navy said a portion of it is likely fraudulent.

“We have looked at draft third party reports the Navy prepared, and we have a lot of questions about them,” Brownlie said when questioned about the Navy’s recent reports.

Brownlie says all of Tetra Tech’s work was performed to Navy standards.

Meanwhile, the Navy is reviewing Tetra Tech’s offer.

"Independent retesting is a critical element of the Navy's Hunters Point re-evaluation workplan,” Navy cleanup coordinator Derek Robinson wrote in an email to NBC Bay Area. “Its purpose is not to exonerate the contractors involved, but to offer a comprehensive, credible data set to reassure the community about their safety, determine the extent of any remediation activities needed, and complete the cleanup of [the shipyard].”

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it’s possible much more of the site could be in question. A December 2017 letter from the EPA to the Navy, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by a Washington, D.C., advocacy group called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, explained that on parts of the shipyard, between 90 and 97 percent of Tetra Tech’s radiation data looked “suspect” and parts of it may have been potentially falsified.

Brownlie says he hasn’t seen the EPA’s report and couldn’t comment, but when questioned, he said Tetra Tech followed all regulatory guidelines and work plans.

“We want to assure residents and neighbors of Hunters Point that what we did was proper,” Brownlie said.

In 2014, the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit first exposed that the Navy caught Tetra Tech mishandling soil samples and falsifying data on several areas of the shipyard. The company took corrective action. Brownlie says that was the end of it.

However, multiple whistleblowers came forward claiming many other parts of the shipyard had problems.

One former sample collector, Anthony Smith, says his supervisor ordered him to falsify records submitted to the government, switch contaminated soil samples with clean ones and dump potentially contaminated soil back into open trenches, where he says it could remain today.

Brown didn’t address Smith’s allegation specifically but said claims by whistleblowers that the company botched the cleanup are false.

For environmental justice advocates like Bradley Angel, time is up for Tetra Tech.

“Tetra Tech needs to be held accountable,” he said.

Angel is the president of GreenAction, an environmental justice group that is now petitioning regulators to take away Tetra Tech’s license to perform radiation work.

He says the company should be paying for the shipyard to be retested, and it should also reimburse taxpayers.

“What the Navy has found and the EPA has found and the state of California has found is there is apparently fraud. And it was apparently massive,” he said. “And it seems on a scale unprecedented in the history of environmental cleanups in the United States.”

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