A Multimedia Analysis of the June 1, 2022 Civil Grand Jury Report on the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard
The City & County of San Francisco Civil Grand Jury (CGJ) is a government oversight panel of volunteers who make findings and recommendations based on its investigations. On June 1, 2022, the CGJ issued a sweeping investigation titled Buried Problems and a Buried Process: The Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in a Time of Climate Change.
“The Civil Grand Jury began this investigation with a question about the potential impact of groundwater rise due to climate change on the future of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. In brief, as sea level rises, shallow groundwater near the shore rises with it, and can cause flooding, damage infrastructure and mobilize contaminants in the soil. The Jury asked if rising groundwater could pose special risks to health and safety in the low-lying heavily polluted landscape of the Shipyard.” City & County of San Francisco Civil Grand Jury 2021–2022
The comprehensive report by the “Citizen Scientists” of the Jury is applaudable but constrained by lack of jurisdiction over the Navy, EPA and State regulators who are signatories to the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard 1992 Federal Facilities Agreement. The Jury offered little to remedy exposures faced by the frontline community yet recognized the pivotal role community based environmental organizations played in formulation of the 2021–2022 report. Additionally, the June 1, 2022 report does not revisit key outstanding findings and recommendations made in the 2010/2011 CGJ Report — Hunters Point Shipyard -Shifting Landscapes.
Hunters Point Biomonitoring Foundation medical researchers Dr. Ahimsa Porter Sumchai and Dr. James Dahlgren met with a team of CGJ investigators in 2021 and 2022, contributing original content to the archive of documents referenced in the report, including geospatial mappings of chemicals of concern detected in residents and workers clustered along the radiation contaminated shoreline and western fence line of the federal Superfund system and it’s industrial landfill.
The Jury concludes groundwater is expected to rise along with sea level rise and interact with hazardous toxins the Navy plans to leave buried in soil and landfills on the Shipyards southern shoreline.
The Jury concludes the “new science” of SLR identifies new risks not fully analyzed by the City or incorporated into the Shipyards development plans by the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure, the Navy and government regulators charged with oversight of the troubled mega development project.
The Jury concludes in Finding 3 that the process governing the Shipyard cleanup is extremely technical, burdened by voluminous documents and inhibiting to city leaders and the public who have little patience with and understanding of the process.
An analysis of the impacts of sea level rise on the shoreline communities of Bayview Hunters Point appears in the 2020 report of the San Francisco Planning Department. It examined neighborhood profiles in Bayview South/Hunters Point and Bayview North/Islais Creek and projects an estimated 66 inches of sea level rise by the end of the century.
Trying to Build a Future on Toxic Ground
“This is a pattern with development in southeastern San Francisco. All along the City’s shoreline, plans for tens of thousands of homes and offices stretch from Mission Bay to Candlestick Point. This side of town is seen as the future because of the large swaths of land at relatively low cost, making it attractive to developers. But a big reason for the low land values is a century or more of soil and groundwater pollution from the City’s industrial past on the waterfront, and the land is not being cleaned up to the higher standards required for the new uses.” Marie Harrison [https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/Trying-to-build-a-future-on-toxic-ground-12608336.php]
“If you drink much from a bottle marked poison it is certain to disagree with you!”
The cleanup of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard is addressed through Federal actions. The Navy is the lead agency for the site. Management of the site is conducted by a Base Closure Team or “BCT” that includes representatives from the Navy, EPA and CalEPA. In 1993 a Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) was formed that included local, state and Federal agency representatives, community group representatives and local residents. Technical assistance grants were awarded to participating community groups.
In September 2009 the Navy dissolved the RAB and in so doing barred the City & County of San Francisco from a seat at the negotiating table for the Shipyard’s cleanup. In the aftermath of the dissolution of the RAB the Hunters Point Shipyard development plan was modified to site residential development in a Shipyard South Multiuse District (MUD)originally sited in Parcel E. The Navy objected to the proposed reuse and the MUD was sited in Parcel G — a rectangular parcel created “cookie cutter” style out of a region of heavily industrialized Parcel D. In October of 2021 Strontium-90 was detected by the Navy in concentrations exceeding background prompting the SFDPH to issue a press release on October 21, 2021 that reads, “The results of the soils analysis do not appear to pose an immediate public safety hazard…the Navy has stated the levels of Strontium-90 detected do not indicate a risk to human health or the environment.” Of note, Mayor London Breeds name appears beneath the logo of the City & County of San Francisco in the top left corner of the press release. Mayor London Breed met in her office with top executives of Lennar/Five Point two days earlier on October 19, 2022.
Power Concedes Nothing Without a Demand: Community Demands Reinstatement of the Hunters Point Shipyard RAB [https://sfbayview.com/2019/10/power-concedes-nothing-without-a-demand-community-demands-reinstatement-of-hunters-point-shipyard-rab/
The Hunters Point Naval Shipyard Restoration Advisory Board seats all Federal Facilities Agreement signatories along with the Navy Base Closure Team, city representatives and the full spectrum of elected community stakeholders representing CBO’s, the Artist Colony and local businesses. RAB meetings are fully transparent and its minutes are transcribed. The proceedings of the RAB must adhere to federal, state and local open government statutes.