23, the City Council will receive a
presentation on toxicity and ecological concerns regarding proposed
cleanup at Zeneca Superfund Site and surrounding area by Community
Advisory Group (CAG) technical consultants:
LaPierre, MS, President, Iris Environmental
Shipman, PG, CHG, Principal, Treadwell & Rollo, Inc.
PhD, PWS, President, Wetlands and Water Resources, Inc.
Partner, Paul Hastings Law
more information, see Berkeley Daily Planet article at the end of
this email and the following:
Southeast Shoreline Area
Community Advisory Group
Zeneca/Cherokee/(Old Stauffer Chemical) aka “Campus Bay” or Cherokee
Simeon Ventures I, LLC or “CSV”
Street, South 46th Street, South 49th Street,
South 51st Street, Montgomery Street, Seaport Avenue, Bay
of California, Richmond Field Station (UCRFS)
1301 South 46th
Street, Meade Street, Regatta Boulevard, Bay Trail
Richmond Toxic Oversight Panel Gets Mixed Message From State
Page 1 of 4
What began as a
heated confrontation ended with qualified applause for the state’s top
environmental cop during last week’s meeting of the citizen panel
advising the state about the cleanup of toxic sites in South Richmond.
Last Thursday’s meeting (June 11) brought other news, both good and
On the potentially negative side, the state Department of Toxic
Substances Control (DTSC) itself may cease to exist as an independent
agency with its own enforcement powers if pending legislation is enacted
that would merge the agency with the state Integrated Waste Management
Board to create a new Department of Toxics and Waste Management.
The new agency would be headed by a Pollution Prevention and Recycling
That proposal, pushed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, is now before the
On a more positive note, DTSC enforcement chief Gale Filter promised to
bring a representative of the federal Environmental Protection Agency to
Richmond in August to discuss a possible U.S. takeover of cleanup
Members of the Richmond Community Advisory Group (CAG) will give their
recommendations to the DTSC about hazardous waste cleanup along the
Their anger had been raised by the announcement that the state had
settled claims against UC Berkeley and a Swiss chemical corporation
without ever consulting the CAG.
The DTSC negotiated with UC Berkeley and Zeneca, Inc., over a lengthy
list of charges of violations involving the disposal of more than 3,000
truckloads of contaminated soil, much of it originating in the
university’s Richmond Field Station.
Zeneca agreed to pay a total of $225,000 while the university will pay
$285,000, with the proceeds evenly divided between the DTSC and Richmond
BUILD, a city-sponsored program that trains young workers to install
solar energy systems.
deputy director for enforcement and emergency response, fielded CAG
member questions about the settlement.
“I’m here to
address the settlement. I’m the person whose name is on it,” Filter told
A veteran prosecutor and former executive director of the California
Deputy District Attorneys Association, Filter said the evidence in the
case didn’t provide any justification to file a court case, even if the
alleged acts hadn’t occurred four to seven years ago.
The problem, he said, is that both the corporation and the university
could defend themselves by declaring that their work was carried out
under the supervision of a state agency, the San Francisco Bay Regional
Water Quality Control Board.
“They could say, ‘We’re just doing what the state told us to do,’”
Filter said. In addition, he said, “The case was old, really old.”
The DTSC’s takeover of cleanup supervision was ordered by the state
after activists—including CAG members Sherry Padgett and Richmond Mayor
Gayle McLaughlin—waged a long political struggle, including protests at
both sites. The handover was announced during a legislative hearing
convened at the Richmond Field Station by two state
legislators—Assemblymembers (now state Senator) Loni Hancock and Cindy
The fines were levied after negotiations between Filter, Zeneca and the
university, he told the CAG.
But what angered many CAG members was the DTSC’s failure to advise them
of the status of violation charges that had been filed two years ago, as
well as the announcement of a settlement—all without any notice to the
citizen panel, which is supposed to be advising the DTSC on the
cleanups, despite repeated pleas from the CAG for information.
“We have been
asking about this, but all we got was a stone wall,” Padgett told
Filter. “Perhaps if you had come to us you would have gotten some more
“We were stonewalled,” said CAG member Eric Blum.
“Repeatedly,” added chair Dan Schwab. “We just sent you a letter a month
ago demanding to know what the settlement would be.”
Barbara Cook, the Berkeley-based DTSC executive in charge of Northern
California coastal cleanup operations, said her office’s blanket
response to inquiries had been that “I’m not able to discuss enforcement
letters,” the documents served on the two parties to the action.
Blum also noted that the buildings at the Zeneca site—100 structures
built during a century of chemical manufacturing—had been demolished and
ground into powder before any regulatory agency had asserted
jurisdiction over the site.
“They filed a little index card with the city saying they were tearing
down gardening sheds,” Blum said.
Peter Weiner, a San Francisco environmental law specialist who has been
volunteering his services to the CAG, characterized previous state
involvement with the sites as “a zone of indifference.”
“Since 2007, they [CAG members] have been asking about what was
happening with the enforcement action, and they were told by enforcement
that there would be no discussion with the community. That happened, and
there’s been a lot of anger about it ... There’s been a great deal of
disappointment in the way that this has turned out.”
Filter said he wouldn’t attempt to defend what he’d heard from CAG
members. “If you and I had known each other in 2004, we would’ve become
good friends,” he said.
“But you’ve been there two years, and this is the first time you’ve come
to us,” said CAG member Tarnel Abbot.
“I didn’t know
about it,” Filter responded.
One thread of the evening’s dialogue concerned the ultimate disposition
of the waste from the two sites, most of it in the form of acidic ash
from the incineration of iron pyrite—fool’s gold—to produce sulfuric
acid, as well as a noxious stew of organic compounds and toxic metals.
Most of the waste, including that from the university’s site, has been
buried on the Zeneca site beneath a concrete-and-paper cap, separated
from the waters of San Francisco Bay by an experimental biologically
active permeable barrier with an unknown but finite lifetime.
CAG members have repeatedly argued that the 350,000 cubic yards of
contaminated soil at the Zeneca site should be removed and transported
to an authorized hazardous waste disposal facility, but Filter said
precedents did allow for on-site disposal if the waste is safely stored.
has been very flawed,” said Richmond Mayor McLaughlin, who dated her
involvement with the site to 2004, in the months before her election to
the City Council.
“I was elected in November of 2004 and sworn in in January. On Feb. 5, I
introduced the resolution that put the ball in motion to put all of
Zeneca and the Richmond Field station under the DTSC,” she said.
“I was very excited when the DTSC got on board ... but having these
toxins remain on this site doesn’t work with me. This situation hasn’t
been settled with us,” she said. “It doesn’t set well with me either
that future members of our community might suffer because of this.”
In the end, Filter offered CAG members an apology “for certain things I
believe a government agency has a responsibility for. I believe you have
a right to know what the status of a case is, and I apologize that that
did not occur,” he said. “There are things you have a right to know. I
am concerned you didn’t get status reports about the investigation.”
Filter also said he thought there should be some process for appealing
decisions such as the one that led to the settlement.
At the end, CAG members and the audience applauded, though Padgett—who
had joined in the applause—later said she would be waiting to see if
promises of good intentions turned into positive actions.