Further accusations: Tetra Tech says no contaminated soil dumped in East Bay landfill

Image 1 of 2

By Bay City News Service

Tetra Tech, a firm that has previously denied falsifying data to minimize radiation levels at the former San Francisco Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, is defending itself from further accusations.

Last week, Contra Costa County Supervisor Federal Glover called for an investigation into claims that radioactive materials from the San Francisco shipyard might have been deposited at Keller Canyon Landfill, located just outside of Pittsburg.

"I want to make sure the residents of Contra Costa County are protected and this matter is fully addressed," Glover said in a statement last week.

Today, in a letter to Glover, Tetra Tech senior vice president Preston Hopson said, "The Navy selected several separate contractors for the excavation of waste material and the transport and disposal of material from Hunters Point Naval Shipyard (HPNS). Tetra Tech EC, Inc. (TtEC) was not 
responsible for any transport or disposal of material to offsite landfills."

According to the letter, Tetra Tech was only one of several contractors tasked with excavating potentially radioactive soil at the shipyard site. Tetra Tech was only responsible for operating radiological screening yards and a vehicle radiation portal monitor to screen trucks 
leaving the site with soil considered to be non-low-level radioactive waste.

Soil identified as low-level radioactive waste was loaded into bins for disposal by a contractor hired specifically to transport and dispose the waste. Soil identified as non-low-level radioactive waste was taken to a staging area, where another contractor took control of it to determine proper 
handling and disposal procedures, the letter said.

"Once the proper disposal facility was determined based on the analysis of the T&D (transportation and disposal) contractor, the waste was loaded into trucks. As one final check before leaving the site, the trucks went through the portal monitor, operated by TtEC, to ensure no radioactivity was present in the waste," according to Tetra Tech's letter to Glover.

Tetra Tech has been embroiled in scandal, since allegations that it falsified and manipulated data at the former San Francisco naval shipyard began gaining traction earlier this year. The firm has vehemently denied those accusations. Last week it offered to pay for retesting at the site by an independent third-party contractor.

Additionally, Tetra Tech said Wednesday that a $27 billion class action lawsuit filed Tuesday in San Francisco on behalf of tens of thousands Hunters Point and Bayview residents, alleging Tetra Tech had disregard for residents' lives and "unfair and fraudulent business practices," was without merit.

Thursday, however, federal prosecutors revealed that two former Tetra Tech supervisors who oversaw the radiation testing of contaminated soil at the Hunters Point shipyard pleaded guilty to falsifying reports and have each been sentenced to eight months in prison.

Stephen Rolfe, 65, and Jason Hubbard, 48, had both pleaded guilty in federal court in San Francisco in the spring of 2017 to one count of falsification of records, but the cases were kept under seal until they were sentenced. U.S. District Judge James Donato sentenced Rolfe in January and Hubbard on Wednesday. 

Acting U.S. Attorney Alex Tse said in a statement, "This sentence reflects our commitment to ensure that bogus reports intended to deceive the protectors of our environment will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Tetra Tech also issued a statement Thursday, saying, "Tetra Tech is fully supportive of the actions taken by the Department of Justice against the two individuals for falsifying reports at Hunters Point.

"Tetra Tech vehemently rejects this type of activity and will pursue all legal actions available to it to recover the harm that the actions of these former employees have caused to Tetra Tech, the Navy, and the local community.

"We have zero tolerance for violations of established protocols and procedures on any project site," the company said.

The U.S. Navy contracted with Pasadena-based Tetra Tech in 2002 to rid the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard of radiation as the area was slated for redevelopment. The Navy paid Tetra Tech $1 billion for the job.

However, in 2012, workers contracted by Tetra Tech alleged that data on the firm's cleanup had been falsified and manipulated in order to minimize evidence of soil contamination, according to the environmental watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

In September 2017, the Navy released a preliminary analysis of the cleanup specifically at two of the site's numerous parcels and determined that nearly half of the samples taken from the site had in fact been falsified or manipulated.

The Navy found that 15 percent of the soil samples at Parcel B needed retesting, while 49 percent of soil samples at Parcel G were in need of retesting.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, along with other state agencies, independently reviewed the Navy's report in December and found further signs of potential falsification, manipulation and data quality concerns at the parcels. The agencies recommended resampling for roughly 90 
percent of Parcel B and for about 97 percent of Parcel G.

"The data analyzed showed a widespread pattern of practices that appear to show deliberate falsification, failure to complete the work in a manner required... or both," regional EPA Superfund manager John Chesnutt wrote to the Navy in a Dec. 17 letter. The letter was made public in April 
after PEER obtained it in a Freedom of Information Act request.

The 500-acre shipyard in southeast San Francisco was closed as a Navy facility in 1974 and is now slated for housing, office and industrial development. The site was exposed to radiation contamination when it was used between 1946 and 1969 as a radiological defense laboratory to study the 
effects of radiation on animals and materials and to decontaminate ships used in atomic bomb testing.