Residents not reassured at meeting over potentially contaminated landfill

- An emotional meeting Thursday night failed to reassure Bay Point residents about potential radiation contamination near their homes. 

More than 100 people packed a community center, concerned about material trucked from the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard to Keller Canyon Landfill. 

Officials from various agencies made presentations, trying to reassure residents about risk, but they were met with widespread distrust.  

"How many years has it been, twenty years?", shouted one man, referring to longstanding complaints about the landfill that have been unresolved. 

The audience applauded at his outburst. 

"I go in my backyard after working all day long and all I can get is odor from that landfill," the speaker continued. 

The meeting was called due to renewed revelations of fraud at the cleanup of the shipyard, where ships were repaired and decontaminated for thirty years.

The main sources of the radiation were luminescent dials and deck markers. 

The contractor Tetra Tech admitted in 2012 and 2016 to mishandling soil samples and falsifying test results, according to a timeline officials presented to the public.

Tetra Tech did not send a representative to the town hall meeting but their PR company acknowledges “irregularities in soil samples” in 2012, but not 2016, despite the assertions by officials and the Navy.

The Navy, after an exhaustive review of Tetra Tech data, has concluded virtually none of it is trustworthy. 

"There was more extensive data falsification than was originally thought," said Scott Anderson, Base Closure Manager for the U.S. Navy. 

Two former Tetra Tech supervisors have been convicted and sentenced to eight months in prison each for the falsification of records.

 A $27 billion class action lawsuit on behalf of San Francisco residents was also filed recently against the firm.

What concerns Bay Point, is the possibility of radioactive material - fraudulently labeled- driven to the landfill and dumped over nine years. 

Residents worry about exposure from trucks and dust.   

"None of these loads triggered our radiation detectors," landfill manager Rick King told the crowd, explaining a rigorous permitting and inspection program at the site. 

Keller Canyon does not accept hazardous waste. Signs at the gate warn against it, and King says monitors detect it. 

"Theses don't lie, and they work, " he said, pointing to radiation detectors, about the size of a loaf of bread, high on posts at the landfill gates. 

They scan the trailers, but he admits, cannot detect what may be buried deep inside the load.  

"It's going to get off- loaded, and it's going to get buried and at that point, it's way more shielded," he explained. 

At the meeting, the head of Contra Costa Environmental Health said the detectors go off infrequently. 

"Once it was a diaper that had some radioactive material because the child was going through treatment with nuclear medicine," said Marilyn Underwood, "so that has set it off before and there have been a couple of other instances." 

But the audience wasn't interested in diapers, and throughout the two hour session, people showed open skepticism. 

They were especially disillusioned to learn that at least twice, multiple truckloads of contaminated asphalt did get into Keller Canyon - caught and recovered only because of a whistleblower at Hunters Point.  

The audience was told repeatedly that exposure from truckloads would be tiny, if at all, but the CIty of Pittsburg and Contra Costa County Supervisors are launching independent studies- and will step up testing of the air and storm drains. 

About 8000 people live in neighborhoods less than mile from the landfill    November 2017 was last load delivered from Hunters Point and there will be no more as these investigations intensify.   

At their meeting on July 21, county supervisors will receive an update on the potential hazard and remedies.  

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