The contractor leading the cleanup of radioactive contaminants at the U.S. Navy’s Hunters Point shipyard in San Francisco is publicly defending its work and offering to pay for independent retesting to refute claims that the company faked and manipulated soil data.
Pasadena-based Tetra Tech has been at the center of environmental scandals plaguing the cleanup of the approximately 500-acre site, once used for warship repair and nuclear weapons research. Both the Navy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have accused the company of fraud, citing allegations by former employees involved in the cleanup.
"While there has been wild speculation regarding the data collected at the site, we believe that any concerns can be directly addressed by actually retesting and analyzing the areas in question,” wrote Dan Batrack, Tetra Tech CEO and chairman, in an April 24 letter to the Navy.
Tetra Tech officials say the company's work at Hunters Point has followed all of the Navy’s required standards and protocols, adding that testing by an independent, third-party contractor will validate its work and clear up concerns about the transportation and disposal of soil.
Former employees involved in the cleanup have accused the company of fraudulent practices such as discarding unwanted samples and substituting soil samples from less-radioactive sites, according to a September 2017 Navy draft report on two parcels covering 40% of the site. The Navy and EPA are already committed to retesting 100% of radiological soil samples at these two parcels, say EPA officials.
Independent retesting is a critical element of the Navy's Hunters Point reevaluation workplan, says Derek Robinson, Navy environmental coordinator for Hunters Point. “Its purpose is not to exonerate the contractors involved, but to offer a comprehensive, credible data set to reassure the community about their safety, determine the extent of any remediation activities needed and complete the cleanup” of Hunters Point.
The stakes are high for San Francisco, a city in dire need of the 12,000 new homes as well as retail and park spaces that developing Hunters Point could provide. The federal Superfund site was a naval shipyard from 1945 to 1974, and its Radiological Defense Laboratory, open from 1948 to 1960, decontaminated ships exposed to atomic weapons.
The EPA halted land transfers from the Navy to the city in 2016 and the city’s Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure told ENR that it will not will not accept any land from the Navy until regulators ensure the site is “100% safe and ready for development.”