In 1962 my grandparents quietly integrated a Mount Davidson neighborhood on San Francisco’s westside. “Mamma Roberta” was a petite model and fashion coordinator for a major downtown department store.
My grandfather, George, gained a solid financial foothold by wisely investing his hard-earned salary as an ILWU walking boss, into residential real estate. Their three-story home atop Teresita Boulevard was as impeccable as a museum and, during a time of “terrible teen turmoil,” I went to live with them. I became beneficiary to quality education at San Francisco State University and on the “shiny hill” of the UCSF School of Medicine Parnassus campus.
Those familiar with my twenty-seven year advocacy for environmental health and justice in southeast San Francisco are surprised to learn that, while I grew up in public housing on the City’s eastside, I am a “child of privilege” of the City’s westside and institutes of higher learning. In the words of Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes, “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair…it’s had tacks in it…and splinters…and places with no carpets on the floor — bare.”
I was a Stanford Fellowship trained Board Certified emergency physician on staff with the San Francisco Department of Public Health and San Francisco Giants MLB, on the morning of February 19, 1992 when I found my father, George Donald Porter, in bed at the family home — dead at age 58.
My Dad retired early due to medical disability following a proud and lucrative career as an ILWU shipping clerk and walking boss. Like many African American men of the World War II to 1960’s era, he was assigned to the Hunters Point Shipyard.
As physician of record on his death certificate, I requested my father’s medical record and was amazed to discover his chest X-ray findings of pulmonary asbestosis. A wrongful death class action civil suit quickly settled and benefitted other exposed shipyard workers.
In January 2019, the Hunters Point Community Biomonitoring Program launched as the nation’s first human biomonitoring program dedicated to providing easy, safe, low cost, fast and reliable urinary toxicology screenings to residents and workers at a federal Superfund site. I serve as Medical Director and Principal Investigator for “HP Biomonitoring” and, from an eastside/westside bicoastal perspective, I appeal to you now.
Biomonitoring measures pollution in people using state of the art biomedical technology capable of detecting 35 toxic and nutrient “biomarkers” using mass spectrometry.
Funded by the Packard Foundation and licensed by the Medical Board of California, HP Biomonitoring is detecting chemical and radioactive biomarkers of toxic environment exposure in residents and workers on and within a one mile radius of the federal Superfund system at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. The elements detected on urine screening correspond with those documented to be present in shipyard soils and landfills.
By combining the findings of urinary screenings with EPA approved geospatial mappings, HP Biomonitoring has identified a cluster of screenings in which multiple radioactive biomarkers are detected in toxic concentrations in residents living along the shipyard’s historic main entry on 3rd traveling southeast along the radiation contaminated shoreline — site of the United States Naval Radiological Defense Laboratories (NRDL) from 1946–1969.
Radioactive elements detected on urine screening in the ROC cluster include uranium, cesium, thallium, strontium, vanadium, gadolinium, rubidium and the gamma emitter manganese. All are designated by the Navy and EPA to be chemicals or radionuclides of concern or radionuclides used by the NRDL by the HRA.
The element manganese has a 100% detection frequency in shipyard soils and has been detected in 100% of urinary screenings conducted on residents and workers within the shipyards one-mile perimeter. In stark contrast, the California Biomonitoring Program detected manganese in only 19% of its urinary screenings:
HP Biomonitoring is the first human biomonitoring program to detect an “aggregate” of multiple radioactive elements in multiple population screenings and, on January 27, 2021, will receive the coveted KPIX/CBS Jefferson Award.
But how do these dangerous chemicals get in the urine of shipyard neighbors you ask? As early as 1946, the Atomic Energy Commission allowed NRDL researchers of the post-World War II era to pour radioactive waste into laboratory drains at the shipyard, dump radiation contaminated materials and animal carcasses into the industrial landfill on the southern shoreline and burn radioactive fuel into the atmosphere from 60 Operations Crossroads ships hauled back following atomic explosions conducted in the South Pacific in shipyard power plants.
“A federal Superfund site is, by definition, a property where the EPA used a Hazard Ranking System to calculate a score based on actual or potential release of hazardous substances causing harm to human health. On a scale of 1 to 100, a score of 28.5 or more places a property on the National Priorities List as a Superfund site. The Hunters Point Shipyard has a Hazard Ranking Score of 80 overall and 100 for groundwater migration, corresponding to an 80 to 100% risk the “toxic stew” documented to be present at the shipyard will contact sensitive nearby receptors via airborne, dermal, waterborne and/or ingestible routes. Thus, by legal definition and government classification, the Hunters Point Shipyard is a harmful property and negative health effects in residents and workers on and adjacent to it, under the Precautionary Principle, must be presumed causal.”
Ahimsa Porter Sumchai, MD PD -Moratorium. Legal Legacy of Harm to the Hunters Point Community.https://asumchai.medium.com/moratorium-37ff4081a398
The Hunters Point Shipyard is the second most contaminated property on the National Priorities List. The shipyard is so contaminated it has spawned EPA designation of three federal Superfund sites in it’s region including the 600-acre naval base proper, the Parcel E-2 industrial landfill and nearby Yosemite Slough.
The Hunters Point Naval Shipyard is a federal Superfund System!
“Hunters Point is unfolding into the biggest case of eco-fraud in U.S. history.” Jeff Ruch — Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility 04/09/2018
Whistleblower complaints and the damaging findings of Tetra Tech’s own internal investigation of 2,500 anomalous soil samples fueled the EPA conclusion that up to 97% of radioactive soil samples collected throughout the base had been improperly processed or falsified.
Navy computers detected the “anomalous samples” in 2012 and determined there was a four year window of opportunity — between 2008 and 2012 — for shipyard residents, workers and visitors to have been exposed to fraudulently cleared radiation contaminated soils.
On March 6, 2019, the City’s Chief Health Officer in charge of population surveillance — Tomas Aragon, MD — sent a letter to Mayor London Breed in which he selectively reviewed data collected by the Greater Bay Area Cancer Registry and determined there was a 31% increase in lung cancer detected in men living in the 94124 zip code during the years 2008–2012. Aragon attributed this startling increase to smoking despite evidence smoking incidences had plummeted and a 2006 DPH report that found smoking to be lower in the 94124 zip code where only 4.0% of Bayview Hunters Point households allowed smoking in the home, compared to 5% in the Western addition and 10% in Ingleside.
The best explanation for finding a 31% increase in lung cancer incidence in the years corresponding exactly to the Tetra Tech soil scandal, 2008–2012, is the confluence of environmental exposure to radiation contaminated particulate dust generated by shipyard excavations compounded by high ambient air pollution in a population of men working in polluting industries and, possibly, smoking.
The Hunters Point Shipyard covers an area of over 600 acres in southeast San Francisco. It sits on a bed of serpentinite rock that is rich in asbestos and heavy metals…that match what the Hunters Point Community Biomonitoring Program is detecting in residents and workers within it’s one mile perimeter.
Between 2006 and 2007, over 2 million tons of serpentinite rock was graded from the Hunters Point hilltop for an ambitious mixed use development project that created Lennar Corporations new neighborhood on Parcel A-1.
In 2006, BAAQMD fined Lennar $587,000 or failing to monitor toxic dust emissions following multiple notices of violation issued during grading of the Parcel A-1 hilltop. Asbestos concentrations as high as 138,000 fibers per cubic centimeter were detected on May 30, 2008 and concealed from residents until July 14, 2008 during a municipal election in which the Lennar funded Proposition G measure sought voter approval to site 10,000 homes at the federal Superfund site.
City’s Toxic Shipyard Development is Killing Us!
On May 27, 2020, D10 Resident and DCCC member Gloria Berry introduced to the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee a Resolution in Support of the Community Harmed by Toxic Substances and Radiation. The Resolution was sponsored by DCCC Chair David Campos along with 12 elected members.
“It was adopted that the San Francisco DCCC urges the City of San Francisco, the State of California, the US Navy and the Federal Government to halt all construction and further resolves that reparations be paid to the residents of Bayview Hunters Point in the form of healthcare to include toxic testing and personal injury compensation in order to begin repairing the damage caused by years of exposure to radioactive waste and environmental injustice.”
In June of 2020, by Executive Order of Mayor London Breed, earthmoving and excavation began at the fence line separating Hunters Point hilltop residents, schools and recreation centers from shipyard Parcel A-2, at its boundary with the most radiation contaminated regions of the base, despite “clear and present dangers” posed by the trifecta of the global pandemic and high ambient air pollution amplified by the worst wildfire season in California history!
A BAAQMD dust complaint with video evidence was filed by hilltop residents. A Proposition 65 Violation was filed by Attorneys representing the nine thousand plaintiff Hunters Point Community Lawsuit and received by Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
The Hunters Point Community Biomonitoring Program believes the finding of multiple chemical and radioactive soil elements in multiple screenings conducted on residents and workers is best explained by community wide exposure caused by exposure to airborne toxic dust generated by corrupt on-going development activities on a contaminated property that is the site of extensive radiation soil fraud.
Heavy Metals and Epigenetic Alterations in Brain Tumors
Numerous studies document a possible link between exposure to heavy metals and various cancers. Heavy metals generate reactive oxygen causing DNA damage and altered proteins. Gliomas are a group of brain tumors that vary in proliferation rates and arise due to genetic and epigenetic changes in glial supporting cell membranes in the brain and brainstem induced by exposure to heavy metals. Recent literature shows evidence of a higher cancer incidence in subjects with prolonged exposure to heavy metals including lead, nickel, chromium and cadmium.
These carcinogenic metals are being detected in urinary screenings conducted by HP Biomonitoring at the Hunters Point Shipyard and include the findings detected in a young woman who has lived since childhood near the Hunters Point shipyard and Yosemite Slough diagnosed with a brainstem glioma…
On January 27, 2021, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District requested the opportunity to review the findings of the Hunters Point Community Biomonitoring Program.
The screenings submitted are those of residents and workers with significant urinary findings and associated health effects. They include the editor of the SF Bayview newspaper who has lived for over 20 years at the shipyards historic main entry on 3rd and Palou and publicly revealed she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer and has elevated levels of cesium, thallium and strontium in her urine. Her husband has a similar urinary profile that also includes uranium. 15 UCSF workers in shipyard Building 830- located within feet of the radiation contaminated Parcel E-2 landfill — have been voluntarily screened. Arsenic in concentrations five times greater than toxic levels was detected in one long term worker and uranium in concentrations 17 times higher than allowable was detected in a UCSF administrator.
The Biden/Harris administrations’ appointment of Michael Regan to lead the EPA and the proposal to create a division in the Department of Justice with a mandate to pursue environmental crimes and injustice brings sunlight and fresh air to fence line communities like Bayview Hunters Point.
The Biden/Harris administration updated Executive Order 12898- Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations.
While elected officials at the highest levels of government have been incriminated in the self serving political bulldozer driving the shipyard’s redevelopment despite mounting medical and legal evidence of “collateral damage” to the fence line community, the “Elephant in the Room” at the Hunters Point Shipyard remains former Mayor Willie Brown!
S.F. Shipyard Developer Brings in Government Consultant Team Featuring Willie Brown — San Francisco Business Journal
Chairman Willie: Willie Brown’s No-So-Secret Connection to the Hunters Point Project — SF Weekly
Firm Tied to Willie Brown gets Political Boost for Hunters Point — Reveal News
Valencia Developer Recruits Willie Brown to Push San Francisco Projects — SCTV News