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Shipyard pollution expected to linger

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Inconsistency and uncertainty surround the environmental cleanup of the Hunters Point shipyard, where plots that are scrubbed clean of heavy metals and radiation could sit next to sites that remain polluted.

City leaders are poised to approve construction of more than 10,000 homes and scores of other buildings on 702 acres of the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, Candlestick Point and surrounding land. Much of the land was contaminated by the Navy, which operated the site from 1941 to 1974.

The Navy does not intend to finalize its cleanup plans until next year, but residents and officials are concerned that it will leave some nasty pollution behind, creating patchworks of clean and contaminated land. Development plans in parts of the shipyard were shaped by site pollution, such as construction of a park over a dump. Cleanup efforts nearby were dictated by development plans, with pollution thoroughly removed from beneath the site of a proposed football stadium.

One example of the incongruent cleanup is a roadway that runs by a radioactive dump. The Navy is preparing to excavate sewers in fall that carried flushed radioactive waste beneath Crisp Road, and to clean a railroad right of way that juts into the Bayview district, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulator Mark Ripperda.

Adjacent to the road, however, is a radioactive underground dump. That land might be merely covered with dirt, though a final decision is pending from the Navy.

Redevelopment plans call for parkland to be built over the dump site. Sports fields, which also could serve as a parking lot, are planned on less-radioactive areas.

Nearby shipyard land, on the other hand, is planned to have its petroleum and heavy-metal contamination fully removed or treated, according to federal documents. A 25-acre rectangle, which was imagined by politicians and officials as the site of a 49ers stadium, could be transferred to The City in a clean state next year after the federal government prioritized its cleanup.

Uncertainty about how radioactive pollution will be treated has created project controversies, since exposure to radiation and associated heavy metals can lead to cancer and other illnesses.

The Navy has skipped City Hall shipyard hearings, leaving local economic development officials to assure lawmakers and residents that risks will be safely managed and regulated.

“Materials that are allowed to be left behind can be touched, eaten and breathed every day for 30 years safely,” Mayor Gavin Newsom’s development adviser, Michael Cohen, said this week during a hearing about the shipyard.

Cleanup issues and questions will arise during a July 27 Board of Supervisors hearing, when project approvals could be sought.

jupton@sfexaminer.com

Contaminated plots

Cleanup details for Navy parcels at Hunters Point shipyard:

1 Cleaned land transferred to The City in 2004. Homebuilding will begin after Lennar Urban finalizes financing.

2 Soil was excavated and groundwater is being treated in order to transfer the land to The City next year for housing development.

3 Heavily contaminated hot spots and underground water pollution are being treated, and land could be transferred in 2013 for use as a research hub and marina.

4 Groundwater is being cleaned and soil and steam and sewer lines are being removed from the parcel, which could be transferred for development in 2012.

5 Cleanup efforts mean the land could be transferred to The City next year.

6 Mild radioactive waste is buried beneath planned sports fields and parks. The Navy will decide next year whether pollution will be removed or covered. Land transfers are expected from 2013 to 2015.

7 Dangerous site of a radioactive underground dump that burned for several weeks in late 2000. The Navy and U.S. EPA will decide whether pollution will be removed, with a land transfer planned in 2015.

8 Pollution in Bay could be dredged, partly dredged or covered over. Land could be transferred to The City in 2016.

9 The Navy expedited cleanup of a rectangle where local officials hoped the 49ers would build a stadium. The land could be transferred to The City next year for construction of a research hub.

10 Contaminated underground utility lines were removed and a land transfer is planned next year.

11 Contaminated underground utility lines were removed and a land transfer is planned next year.

12 Contaminated sewer lines could be excavated this fall and former railroad land will be cleaned, with transfer to The City planned by 2013.

13 Polluted land will be covered over by the Navy before it’s transferred to The City in 2013.

Sources: U.S. EPA, Lennar Urban, Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development