Tetra Tech issues contradictory statements in response to Shipyard false cleanup suit

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN/KTVU) A firm accused in a lawsuit filed Tuesday of putting the lives of residents in San Francisco's Bayview and Hunters Points neighborhoods at risk by allegedly falsifying radiation cleanup data says the suit is baseless.

"We believe the lawsuit is factually incorrect and without merit. Tetra Tech stands by this work at Hunters Point. Our work was done properly and to the standard required by the U.S. Navy," Tetra Tech said in a statement.

"We believe so strongly in the quality of our work that we have offered to pay for independent testing to demonstrate that the false and misleading allegations, such as contained in this lawsuit, are wrong," the statement said.

The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court by attorney Charles Bonner, accuses Tetra Tech of "blatant, conscious, callous disregard of Bayview Hunters Point residents' lives, born and unborn" and "unfair and fraudulent business practices."

The suit is seeking $27 billion in damages on behalf of the neighborhood's 38,484 residents, a figure based on a 2010 census.

KTVU received an additional statement from Tetra Tech Thursday night regarding two former employees the company says falsified the data. The statement seemed to directly contradict the confidence expressed in their work from the earlier statement. That statement in full reads: 

"Tetra Tech is fully supportive of the actions taken by the Department of Justice against the two individuals for falsifying reports at Hunter 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 U.S. Navy contracted the Pasadena-based firm to clean up radiation at the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in 2002 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 claimed 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 the California Department of Toxic Substances Control and the California Department of Public Health, 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.

In a Dec. 17 letter to the Navy, John Chesnutt, a regional EPA Superfund manager, wrote, "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."

The letter was made public in April after PEER obtained it in a Freedom of Information Act request.

The area was closed as a Navy shipyard in 1974 and in 1989 was designated as an EPA Superfund site, having priority as one of the most toxic cleanup sites in the nation.

Radiation contamination there stemmed from the cleaning of ships exposed to atom bombs and from research on defense against nuclear weapons. Other contaminants from shipyard operations included petroleum compounds, mercury and lead.

Supervisor Malia Cohen has called for a hearing on the cleanup, set for May 14 before the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Transportation Committee.