The constant flow of heavily loaded trucks scheduled to move out of Campus Bay this week marks a second partial victory for critics of the marshland cleanup at the heavily contaminated Richmond site.
The state Department of Toxics Substances Control (DTSC) announced Friday that developer Cherokee Simeon Ventures would begin preparations to haul polluted marsh muck off the site starting the next morning.
More than 100 trucks a day are expected to make the run between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. over the next two to three weeks, according to a DTSC site status report.
Their payloads will be covered with tarps and trucks themselves will be decontaminated before they can be driven off the site.
DTSC staff will be on hand throughout to monitor decontamination and to make sure dust control and air monitoring measures are properly implemented, said department spokesperson Angel Blanchette.
The move was welcomed by activists in Bay Area Residents for Responsible Development (BARRD), a community group which has become the focal point for critics of the cleanup efforts at the site of the former chemical manufacturing complex.
Cherokee Simeon Ventures plans to build a 1,330-unit housing complex atop a mound of 330,000 cubic yards of buried waste generated by the 100 years of chemical production by Stauffer Chemicals and successor Zeneca Inc.
The current excavations are concentrated at Stege Marsh, a wetlands between the upland site of the former plants and the waters of San Francisco Bay.
Crews had been hauling the excavated marsh soils to a recently opened section of the buried mound, where they were to be transferred in the spring after they had dried and been mixed with lime to neutralize the acids leached out of iron pyrite cinders generated by the production of sulphuric acid.
Those soils will be moved after the current operation ends, said a DTSC spokesperson.
BARRD activists Sherry Padgett, UC Berkeley Professor Claudia Carr and others had decried the process, which is being conducted under the auspices of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Critics did succeed in forcing the handover of control over the upland portion of the site from the water board and into the hands of DTSC, but they remained convinced that the toxics agency should be controlling all aspects of the project.
“We’re really glad that they’re hauling it out, but am I still at risk? I just don’t know,” Padgett said.
Padgett, the chief financial officer for Kray Cabling, a firm located just outside the site, has suffered from a variety of cancers and medical problems she believes may have resulted from years of 16-hour days working near the site.
Padgett remains critical of air monitoring at the site, which she said has yet to include real-time measurements and an expansion of the chemicals included in the monitoring.
“They still haven’t included PCBs, a hazardous compound which earlier surveys had found at the site, and they haven’t added the additional monitors they promised,” Padgett said.
Critics living and working near the site have reported smelling chemical scents, and the DTSC reported that on a site visit Thursday, both their inspectors and Cherokee Simeon representatives had smelled odors emanating from the marsh excavation.
As a result, DTSC asked that the moment odors were detected, crews should cover that portion of the site with fresh earth and implement odor mitigation measures.
DTSC officials responded to another complaint Wednesday regarding dust blowing off the site, which is prohibited. They ordered additional watering of roadways at the site and a slowdown of street sweepers.
“We’re still not where I expected we’d be by this time,” said Padgett.
Peter Weiner, a San Francisco attorney who has been representing BARRD, said the Cherokee Simeon and DTSC’s moves constituted “generally positive developments.”
“We’re also very pleased that they are going to be monitoring the excavated material with photoionization detectors to make sure that they’re giving off no untoward volatile organic compounds (VOCs),” Weiner said.
VOCs constitute a class of particularly nasty chemicals which can become airborne.
“All in all, the level of attention the DTSC is paying to problems at the site is far more than before,” he said.
Among Weiner’s concerns about the current phase of operations are plans to mix the excavated soils with lime to neutralize the acids.
“Lime is corrosive, and we want to make sure that people are not going to be exposed to it,” he said.
As of late last weeks, the trucks were scheduled to haul their loads to the Keller Canyon Landfill near Pittsburgh.
Just where DTSC will dispatch the already excavated soils now stored on the upland site remains to be determined, she said.