Hunters Point Naval Shipyard
Here you will find the comprehensive list of our Hunters Point reports.
Report 1: Hunters Point Naval Shipyard: The Nuclear Arms Race Comes Home – October 2018
Report 2: The Great Majority of Hunters Point Sites Were Never Sampled for Radioactive Contamination — And the Testing That Was Performed Was Deeply Flawed – October 2018
Report 3: Hunters Point Shipyard Cleanup Used Outdated and Grossly Non-Protective Cleanup Standards – October 2018
Report 4: FROM CLEANUP TO COVERUP: How the Navy Quietly Abandoned Commitments to Clean Up Hunters Point Naval Shipyard and is Instead Covering Up Much of the Contamination – August 2019
Companion Reports Issued with Report 4:
Plant Uptake of Radionuclides and Toxic Chemicals from Contaminated Soils Below a Shallow Soil Cover by William Bianchi, PhD, August 2019
Bioturbation, Erosion, and Seismic Activity Make Shallow Soil Covers Ineffective at Isolating Contamination by Howard Wilshire, PhD, August 2019
Additional CBG Hunters Point Critiques:
Critique of the Navy’s Protectiveness Review of its HPNS Building Cleanup Standards – November 2019
Critique of the Navy’s Protectiveness Review of its HPNS Soil Cleanup Standards – September 2019
Critique of the Navy’s Draft Five Year Review – September 2018
Critique of the California Department of Public Health Work Plan for a Partial Gamma Survey of Parcel A-1 Hunters Point Naval Shipyard – July 2018
Critique of the Work Plan for Retesting of Parcel G Hunters Point Naval Shipyard – August 2018
Critique of the Navy’s Parcel F Proposed Plan for Offshore Sediment Cleanup Hunters Point Naval Shipyard Superfund Site – May 2018
A History of Extensive Radioactivity Use
ON JULY 16, 1945, THE USS INDIANAPOLIS DEPARTED Hunters Point Naval Shipyard carrying components of a bomb code-named “Little Boy,” including half of the highly enriched uranium then in existence in the world. Two hours later, after receiving word that the “Trinity” test of the first nuclear explosion on earth had succeeded earlier that day at Alamogordo, New Mexico, the Indianapolis was allowed to leave San Francisco harbor carrying its cargo to the island of Tinian in the Pacific. On August 6, a plane christened the Enola Gay left Tinian and dropped the assembled atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
About a year later, the nuclear arms race returned to Hunters Point. The first post-war nuclear tests, called OPERATION CROSSROADS, were conducted at the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific, involving 42,000 sailors and more than 240 target and support ships. The tests went badly awry, contaminating the ships. More than 80 of the most contaminated ships, from this and subsequent tests, were brought back for “decontamination” to Hunters Point, then, as now, a predominantly low-income Black community. This process involved sandblasting the radioactivity off the ships in the open air, transferring the contamination from the ships to the surrounding area.
In 1989, Hunters Point was made a Superfund site, listed as one of the most polluted places in the country. Since then, the cleanup has been botched beyond description. CBG, working with Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, pried out of EPA and made available to the news media EPA documents concluding that the Navy’s contractor had apparently fabricated or otherwise falsified radioactivity measurements at 90-97% of the survey units at the site. $250 million in taxpayer money was wasted; the tests would have to be redone.
CBG has issued a series of detailed reports (which you can find on the column to the left) on the problems at Hunters Point, which have been given significant press attention (e.g., front page of the San Francisco Chronicle, major TV news stories on NBC Bay Area). These studies— based on intensive research by CBG staffers Devyn Gortner, Maria Caine, Taylor Altenbern, Haakon Williams, and Audrey Ford, and a score of interns—disclosed that the problems went far beyond the fabrication of measurements. CBG revealed that radioactivity use at the site was far more extensive than generally realized, with numerous pathways for transporting contamination throughout the entire shipyard and into the neighboring community; that 90% of sites at Hunters Point had not been tested at all; that for those sites that were, 90% of the radionuclides of concern were not tested for. We showed that the cleanup standards employed by the Navy were decades out of date and far, far weaker than current EPA standards, which are required to be used at Superfund sites.
We disclosed that the Navy, after having promised to remove the contamination so that the site could be released for unrestricted residential use, shifted gears and decided to leave much of the contamination and just cover it with thin layers of soil or asphalt. Because the site is planned to be the largest redevelopment project in San Francisco history since the 1906 earthquake, those thin covers will have to be torn up and the contaminated soil beneath them excavated to build the more than 12,000 homes planned, exposing and lofting the contamination into the air. Drs. Howard Wilshire and William Bianchi prepared companion reports that showed that plant roots and burrowing animals would also bring the contamination back to the surface. We have prepared detailed critiques of testing plans by the Navy and the health department showing that they were incapable of detecting contamination at the levels requiring cleanup.
Three quarters of a century after the nuclear arms race set sail from Hunters Point, the toxic legacy remains for that impacted community, a victim of environmental injustice. We will continue our efforts to assist them, as they frankly have no one on their side from the parties responsible—the Navy, its contractors, and the captured regulators. Hunters Point is a striking reminder that the nuclear arms race threatens us globally and locally.