Growing concerns of radioactive soil at Contra Costa Co. landfill

- There’s growing concern over whether waste dumped at a Contra Costa County landfill from the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard was potentially radioactive.

Officials from Contra Costa County Environmental Health and Contra Costa Supervisor Federal Glover will host a community forum to answer questions for residents about the alleged disposal of potentially radioactive materials from Hunters Point at Keller Canyon Landfill outside of Pittsburg/Bay Point. The meeting will be held Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Ambrose Community Center in Bay Point.

Dr. Marilyn Underwood, Director of Environmental Health with Contra Costa County, said Keller Canyon is a class 2 landfill. She said from 2010 to 2016, truckloads of waste from Hunters Point was disposed of at the landfill. At the time, the contractor disposing of the waste had to supply data to show the waste was safe to accept.  

But recent reports that a contractor, Tetra Tech EC, allegedly falsified records about soil samples left in place at Hunters Point, has given concern to residents who live near Keller Canyon. The landfill sits south of Highway 4 off Bailey Road, near several neighborhoods. Jennette Borcic, a nearby resident, said she has had to deal with odor from the landfill for years, but now she’s concerned about the waste.

“Everybody should know about it and I don’t think everybody in these neighborhoods do,” Borcic said. “We want them to know that we care about our town and our neighborhood.”

Underwood said the county has received numerous calls from the public. 

“People are concerned that the same misrepresentation might have occurred there,” she said. “We have no proof. None of the whistleblowers said they did something wrong with a that data. Nevertheless, we need to find out more.”

She said the U.S. Navy and state and federal oversight agencies are looking back at the data that was used to allow waste to be brought from Hunters Point to Keller Canyon. Officials from the U.S. Navy will be on hand at the community meeting talk answer questions. Underwood said the county has also put out a bid for a consultant to understand what happened. 

“It’s very low radioactive waste and I think that’s part of the message,” Underwood said. “It’s not that we’re not concerned too. We want to see what happened, did that waste get here? But the reality is it’s not something like plutonium or something really nasty.”

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Tetra Tech EC said their company was one of several Navy contractors that performed excavation of potentially radiologically contaminated soil at Hunters Point, but their company was not responsible for any transport or disposal of materials to Keller Canyon or other landfills. That work was done by separate contractors hired by the U.S. Navy. 

The statement also noted that numerous precautions were taken once potentially low-level radioactive materials were identified from Hunters Point. She said at most, if not all, landfills in California trucks must pass through a monitor to confirm no radioactive material is being disposed of.

Borcic is not convinced that all of the waste from Hunters Point was safe.

“All of that’s OK? I doubt it,” she said. “I want it tested and I want a third part testing it.”

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