Class action lawsuit filed against Tetra Tech, for falsifying records during environmental clean up assignment
Plaintiffs claim asthma, cancer, and other serious health issues due to long-term exposure
Current residents demand retesting for radioactive toxins
By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
How far would real estate developers, some city officials, and the U.S. Navy go to cover up what has been called the biggest case of ‘eco-fraud’ in the U.S.?
That question is at the heart of a growing scandal and recent class action lawsuit filed on behalf of at least 149 residents of Bayview Hunters Point, on the site of a massive redevelopment of San Francisco’s former Naval shipyard.
It has already been proven in court that top-level employees of defense contractor Tetra Tech, hired by the U.S. Navy to test and clean up nuclear waste and radioactive contamination at the site, engaged in top-down fraud to cover up the presence of toxins. According to reports in the San Francisco Chronicle, SF Curbed, and the San Francisco Examiner, whistleblowers — former Tetra Tech workers — came forward in 2012, and later testified in court that they were instructed to falsify records and destroy “hot” soil samples, in order to make it appear that the site was cleared of contaminants.
Several former Tetra Tech executives ultimately admitted in court to submitting false information, in order to speed up a decade-long cleanup of the shipyard, so that developers could begin to build an elaborate high density, mixed use planned community. The City of San Francisco has been promoting the redevelopment of the vacant shipyard for decades.
The Shipyard, if fully redeveloped according to grandiose plans, will include more than 10,000 units of housing, roughly 1400 of them deemed “affordable,” plus millions of square feet of commercial development. (See the website for SF Shipyard https://thesfshipyard.com/)
At the present time, 300 townhouses and condos are inhabited on a hillside know as Parcel A, the site of former Naval barracks.
A side note — in San Francisco’s crazy overvalued real estate market, an “affordable” home sells for at least $500,000 — you read that right, a half million dollars.
Luxury townhouses for sale currently list for $1.4 million.
But development at the shipyard — except for Parcel A — has been halted since 2016, in light of arrests and convictions of Tetra Tech fraudsters.
The Shipyard has a long history of nuclear research and testing, going back to World War II and extending through the mid 1970s. Back in those days, Naval workers routinely disposed of radioactive waste in storm drains, and dumped solid waste in landfills along with common household trash.
Not surprisingly, former workers and their families have experienced disturbingly high rates of asthma and cancer. Women have also reported high rates of miscarriage. Plaintiffs claim clusters of serious health issues are well-documented.
Although the historically African American neighborhoods surrounding the shipyard thrived until the base was shut down in 1974, they have struggled to survive ever since.
Deemed a Superfund site in the 1980s, the U.S. Navy began working with private contractors, primarily Tetra Tech, to clean up and dispose of toxic waste. For more than two decades, San Francisco City leaders have been promising a revitalization of the area, a glimmer of hope for low income neighborhoods nearby.
But, following recent convictions of Tetra Tech employees, both the U.S. Navy and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have re-evaluated test results, based upon samples taken by Tetra Tech during the lengthy clean up of the future construction site.
In two recent bombshell reports, the U.S. Navy concluded that at least half of those test results have been faked. Even worse, the EPA says 97% of test result are unreliable.
In other words, the evaluation and cleanup of the massive Shipyard redevelopment project was a complete sham. It wasted $1 billion of taxpayer dollars. But, even more distressing, it appears that people residing in Parcel A or nearby neighborhoods face grave risks to their health and well-being.
Current residents of condos and townhouses on Parcel A — the portion of the Shipyard that were previously deemed as safe for development — are demanding that the soil beneath their homes be tested for possible contamination.
As usual, no one wants to go down that road. The U.S. Navy insists that Parcel A was never exposed to contaminants, since it served as housing, not a nuclear testing site.
Understandably, recent discoveries of massive fraud surrounding testing and clean up make residents uneasy, to say the least.
So it’s not surprising that a class action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of 149 residents, and counting, seeking $27 million in damages, citing “health defects” and “environmental injustice,” according to the complaint.
But, why aren’t politicians in an uproar? Why have they been slow to take action, and so eerily quiet on this scandal?
Curbed SF sheds some light on the intersecting relationships between developers, city, state, and Congressional officials:
FivePoint is closely associated with Miami-based homebuilding giant Lennar Urban, which in turn has close ties to the local Democratic Party power structure in San Francisco.
The development behemoth’s regional vice president, Kofi Bonner, is a former aide to Willie Brown, San Francisco’s former mayor. And Brown is a principal in Golden Gate Global, an investment fund that’s luring overseas investors to sink capital in the shipyard project in exchange for visas.
California’s two U.S. senators are part of the same San Francisco-based power circle: former state attorney general Kamala Harris is a Brown associate who served as city district attorney. And senior U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is a former San Francisco mayor.
Faked cleanup at Hunters Point Shipyard much worse than Navy estimates
Bayview Hunters Point residents sue U.S. Navy contractor over data falsification
A class action lawsuit was filed in San Francisco Superior Court Tuesday on behalf of Bayview District residents claiming they are victims of environmental racism and suffered severe health defects as a result of a botched toxic cleanup at the Hunters Point Shipyard by Tetra Tech.
The civil engineering firm was contracted by the U.S. Navy from 2002 until 2016 to test and clean up contaminated soil at the shipyard, where a 12,100- unit housing development and over 4 million square feet of commercial space are slated to rise in the coming years. Tetra Tech, along with developers Fivepoint Holdings LLC and Lennar Inc., are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
So far, 149 plaintiffs have joined the lawsuit, claiming Tetra Tech engaged in “intentional fraud, greed, and disregard for the health and safety of Bayview Hunters Point residents, the present and future San Francisco residents as well as the greater Northern California community.”
They are seeking damages in the amount of $27 billion.
“Why $27 billion? Because it’s not enough,” said Charles Bonner, the plaintiff’s attorney, at a press conference Tuesday. He spoke at a hilltop playground overlooking areas of the shipyard that have been part of the cleanup effort and where recent reviews by both the Navy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agencies have cast doubt over the integrity of Tetra Tech’s work. “Because it’s a language they understand.”
Hunters Point Shipyard homeowners call for retesting of Parcel A
Dozens of Bayview Hunters Point Shipyard residents urged the U.S. Navy Monday to test the soil under their hilltop homes for toxic residue, citing mounting revelations of a fraudulent radioactive cleanup on surrounding land slated for redevelopment.
However, a Navy spokesman speaking at a homeowners association meeting told residents that any retesting will not extend to the area known as Parcel A, which it transferred to The City for development in 2004. Upwards of 300 condominiums have since risen on the 75-acre parcel, which once served as housing and office space for the former Naval base.
“There are a lot of houses already here [and] this isn’t Navy property,” said Derek Robinson, environmental coordinator for the Navy at Hunters Point.
Robinson said that the Navy was most concerned about “long term exposure” to radioactive materials in other areas where contractor Tetra Tech — the civil engineering firm hired by the Navy to clean the Shipyard of its radioactive past —worked from about 2002 to 2016.
While the Navy has maintained Parcel A is clean, whistleblower testimony disputing that notion surfaced as recently as this weekend.
As was first reported in Curbed SF, former Shipyard worker said he discovered a “hot” sample of cesium-137 higher than the allowable limit for release of the site set by the EPA and Navy, on Parcel A, which he was instructed to cover up— an allegation Tetra Tech has disputed. Another whistleblower alleged he reported finding elevated levels of radium 226 in a sewer line in Parcel A.
They have also alleged that Parcel A was not adequately tested for contamination.
Almost half of toxic cleanup at Hunters Point Shipyard is questionable or faked, according to initial review
City’s goals for housing, affordable housing in doubt after fraud at city’s biggest redevelopment project “much worse” than thought
Faked cleanup at Hunters Point Shipyard much worse than Navy estimates