Pollution: experts concerned about Treasure Island cleanup as seas rise


Subsoil pollution on Treasure Island, overlaid on a map of future development plans. Graphic by Shawn Allen, Stamen Design. For a key to toxins and an explanation of historical uses of various sites, see explanation below.

Many Treasure Island sites have been decontaminated through soil removal or capping, which entails covering the remaining toxic soil with a clay cap. But there is growing concern that coastal sites once considered sufficiently remediated may become problematic as sea levels rise. Contaminated soil could come in contact with ground water as the sea pushes it higher. Bay Area scientists and regulators are beginning to explore the problem given the large number of former military sites in the region.

As a former military site, Treasure and Yerba Buena islands suffer from environmental pollution problems affecting their soil, water, air and existing buildings. Not only does the Navy have environmental remediation to complete – from the removal of DDT and petroleum products to PCBs and lead – but also the developers anticipate that additional clean up will cost them $33 million. But because the Navy is only required to remediate an area to current use standards, if the developers want to build homes where an auto shop once stood, more cleaning will be required.

In addition to soil concerns, the construction on Treasure Island will last at least 18 years causing unavoidable and significant increases in traffic, ground vibrations, noise and air pollution, according to the forthcoming Treasure and Yerba Buena Islands draft Environmental Impact Report, which the Public Press obtained through a public records request. The draft EIR is subject to change prior to its official release in mid-July.

Particulate matter measuring the size of a human red blood cell or smaller is of concern and “may lead to adverse health effects” in people exposed to substantial amounts of it.

The report also says traffic will increase – despite plans to mitigate construction traffic and discourage the use of cars on the island – during peak hours on the Bay Bridge and downtown San Francisco.

The city will likely adopt a statement of overriding consideration, concluding that the project’s environmental damage is unavoidable and outweighed by its potential benefits, said city officials.

Site 13
Storm water outfalls and offshore sediment
LU: The 538-acre off shore perimeter of Treasure and Yerba
Buena Islands.
P: Metals, PAHs, PCBs, DDT, TPH.
S: Closed in 2005.

Site 12
Old Bunker Area
LU: Was Navy ammunition bunker and storage yard, currently housing, and will become housing and open space.
P: Refuse and incinerated solid waste containing PCBs,
PAHs, dioxins, arsenic, lead, radium 226, and trash spread over 93 acres.
S: Groundwater study underway.

Site 31
Former South Storage Yard
LU: Was storage yard and trash dump, currently a paved elementary school playground
P: Lead, DDT, PCBs, motor and diesel oil, dioxins.
S: Scheduled to be closed in 2010.

Site 2
Decontamination Training Area
LU: Was used for radiation decontamination training for 20 years, is currently housing, and will be housing.
P: Radioactive materials.
S: Closed in 1988.

Site 20
Auto Hobby Shop/Transportation Center
LU: Was the site of auto repair and storage center with underground storage tanks, the buildings were demolished, land will become housing.
P: Petroleum, oils, lubricants, VOCs.
S: Closed in 2004.

Site 27
Clipper Cove Skeet Range
LU: Was a clay skeet Navy target range for 10 years, to become a marina.
P: Lead shot, lead, and PAHs, water pollution.
S: Scheduled to be closed in January 2013.

Site 25
Seaplane Maintenance Area
LU: Was an airplane and vehicle maintenance area with underground storage tanks, pipelines and fuel pump house, and will become a new marina.
P: Petroleum, oil, lubricants, water pollution.
S: Currently requesting closure.

Site 21
Vessel Waste Storage Recovery Area
LU: Was a vessel oil recovery site for 50 years, and will become commercial area.
P: Petroleum, VOC, water pollution.
S: Treatability study underway.

Site 24/building 99
Dry Cleaning Facility
LU: Was at different times a facility for laundry and dry cleaning, meat processing, and printing, today it’s an office, and will become open space.
P: Petroleum, oil, lubricants, and chlorinated solvents.
S: Groundwater pollution treatability study underway for closure in 2016.

Site 32
Former Training and Storage Area
LU: Was hazardous materials storage and training area, and will be open space
P: PCBs, TPH, dioxins, pesticides.
S: Clean up underway.

Site 10
Bus Painting Shop
LU: Was used to paint buses, mix paint and store pesticides, and will be open space
P: Iron, carcinogens such as benzo(a)pyrene, dibenz(a,h) anthracene, water pollution.
S: Closed in 2007.

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A version of this article was published in the summer 2010 pilot edition of the San Francisco Public Press newspaper. Read select stories online, or buy a copy.