The Berkeley Daily Planet, October 17, 2006
Bayer, Zeneca: New Cleanup Orders Issued for Campus Bay
State officials have ordered UC Regents and two chemical manufacturing multinationals to clean up toxic wastes at UC Berkeley's Richmond Field Station (RFS).
Barbara J. Cook, chief of Northern California cleanup operations for the state Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), announced the order at a Thursday night meeting of the Richmond Southeast Shoreline Area Community Advisory Group, which is advising her agency on cleanups along the southeast Richmond shoreline.
The 45-page document cites the danger of "actual and threatened release of hazardous substances" as the basis for mandating the cleanup of the university research site located on the San Francisco Bay shoreline.
The notice was served to the Regents of the University of California, Zeneca, Inc. and Bayer CropScience and calls for the creation and execution of plan designed to clean up at least 13 hazardous metals and compounds at the 152-acre site owned by the university for the past 56 years.
The two chemical firms are the corporate successors to the operators of plants at the adjoining Campus Bay site, where sulfuric acid plants dumped toxic-laden cinders on the site now owned by the university.
The order, signed Sept. 15, calls on the university and the corporations to identify all immediate and potential health threats at the site and to create and execute a plan that renders the site safe or places restrictions on its use.
A similar order was issued that same day for Campus Bay and issued to Cherokee Simeon Venture 1, current owners of the property, as well as to the Regents and the two chemical firms.
Contamination levels at the 86-acre Campus Bay site have been recorded in soil and groundwater at levels far higher than at RFS. Plans for a 1,330-unit high-rise condominium and apartment complex at Campus Bay have been placed on hold pending the outcome of cleanup operations.
Before the university acquired the RFS in 1950, the site itself had housed plants that manufacturing explosives and blasting caps using mercury-based compounds now known to be lethal in large doses and capable of causing birth defects and nervous system and other ailments in smaller quantities.
Mercury soil levels have been detected measuring up to 13 times the maximum allowable limits, with groundwater levels nearly twice the maximum.
Compounds on the site are known to cause cancer and many diseases, with the most serious cases leading to death.
Besides endangering RFS workers, the order states that others "who could potentially come into contact with contamination at the site include recreational users of the San Francisco Bay Trail and adjacent residents of the Marina Bay complex," a residential community that begins 200 feet southwest of the RFS property.
The presence of contamination at RFS had been known for years, and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board had been allowing the university to conduct its own cleanup operations.
But the state Environmental Protection Agency ordered oversight transferred to the DTSC in May 2005.
UC officials vigorously opposed the oversight change, a move demanded by campus unions and a coalition of activists who had organized to protest the board's handling of cleanup operations at the adjacent Campus Bay site. Cherokee Simeon had resisted that takeover as well.
While most of the site is used to house university-based research, part of the research facility is leased to private corporations and to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Two years ago, the university released plans to transform much of the site into a corporate and academic research park, but those plans were derailed with the regulatory handover.
The Sept. 15 order cites documents prepared by the water board during its oversight, but says that DTSC "does not intend to imply that it is in agreement with the contents or conclusions set forth in these reports or otherwise approves of them."
While the university performed some remediation under the water board regime, other work remains, the order notes, and there has not been a comprehensive report looking at the whole site.
The order requires the preparation of a new survey that identifies and fills in gaps in previous surveys, as well as the preparation of a baseline health and environmental risk assessment that looks at possible risks to all segments of the populace and to the area ecology.
The resulting information will be used to prepare a work plan to clean up the site, including a revised plan for public participation.
DTSC cleanup chief Cook told the community advisory group members Thursday that the agency would be reporting back to them on the cleanup plans.
"This doesn't change our overall cleanup plans, but it does allow us to move ahead," said Greg Haet, UC Berkeley's associate director of environmental protection. Haet said the university's cleanup efforts had been "basically on hold since the regulatory change" from the water board to DTSC. (By Richard Brenneman)
CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
DEPARTMENT OF TOXIC SUBSTANCES CONTROL
“Bayer CropScience, Inc. is the corporate and legal successor to Stauffer Chemical Company, Inc., and its successors in interest, which owned the Site from approximately 1897 to January 3, 1986, and which operated the Site from approximately 1897 to 1987. During that time hazardous substances, including some or all of those described in this section, were disposed at the Site. “