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Toxics Agency Calls Halt to Campus Bay Cleanup: By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday September 03, 2004

State environmental officials threw a major stumbling path on the road to a controversial massive high-rise residential complex near the Richmond shoreline this week, halting a crucial excavation and raising the specter that work might not recommence till spring. 

Cherokee-Simeon, the partnership of a Marin County developer and a Colorado-based firm specializing in development on restored brownfields (i.e., cleaned-up toxic waste sites), have only September and October to excavated contaminated soils from shoreline marshland. 

November marks the start of the nesting season for the Clapper Rail, an endangered shorebird regularly observed along the Richmond waterfront. After that, the dig could only take placed when the nestlings have taken wing in the spring. 

Barbara J. Cook, the Berkeley-based chief of Northern California coastal cleanup for the state Department of Toxic Substances Control, triggered the halt Monday with a four-page letter to the Regional Water Quality Control Board.  

Assembymember Loni Hancock followed up the next day with a letter of her own, asking the board to halt the project until Cook’s questions were resolved. 

IRG Environmental is handling the cleanup, following a plan produced by LFR Levine-Fricke, an Emeryville-based toxic cleanup specialty firm once headed by would-be Point Molate casino developer James D. Levine of Berkeley. 

The original cleanup plan was formulated when Simeon Properties targeted the site for an industrial park, and Cook said it failed to take into account the more recent plans for housing—which requires a higher set of standards because of round-the-clock occupancy and the presence of children. 

Cook also cited the plan’s failure to spell out what would happen to the water in the marsh mud excavated during the cleanup. 

While the cleanup plans called for processing the mud on site and burying it under the soil cap already encasing burned pyrite cinders on the site, Cook questioned whether that could be done without a hazardous waste permit from her agency’s Hazardous Waste Management Branch. 

Cook also wanted greater public access to air-monitoring results from sensors on the site, particularly for residents without computers and therefore unable to access the web site created for that purpose. 

The toxics expert also wants more information about the developer’s plan for control of contaminated dust during the cleaning, tighter standards for exposure levels permissible to site workers and the surrounding community and an explanation for the company’s selection of contaminants to be monitored in the air. 

Residents have protested the presence of a view-blocking high-rise on the waterfront and environmental activists have expressed concerns that the project and its tenants might drive out the endangered and threatened species that frequent the area.