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Activists Win New Oversight At Campus Bay, UC Field Station By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday May 13, 2005

In a stunning victory for community activists, the California Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Thursday agreed to hand jurisdiction over two adjoining contaminated Richmond sites to the state Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). 

Effective Thursday, jurisdiction of hazardous waste cleanup at both UC Berkeley’s Richmond Field Station—now renamed the Bayside Research Campus—and the adjacent privately held Campus Bay site rests with the DTSC. 

Bay Area Residents for Responsible Development (BARRD), the Richmond Progressive Alliance and the West County Toxics Coalition have been pushing for DTSC control of the sites. 

They won over both the Richmond City Council in March and the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors earlier this week, with both agencies asking the EPA to give full jurisdiction over both sites to the DTSC. 

“It’s a good move in the right direction,” said Sherry Padgett, a BARRD activist who has been the most prominent of the activists calling for the handover. 

“We’re cautiously optimistic. We don’t believe it’s the answer to all our problems, but it does give us the ability to hold one agency accountable for what happens next.” 

Both sites were under the jurisdiction of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board until last Nov. 6, when a legislative hearing called by East Bay Assemblymember Loni Hancock resulted in a water board handover of the dry land portion of Campus Bay to the DTSC. 

But that wasn’t enough for Padgett and her fellow activists, who demanded that all of both sites fall under DTSC because the water board has no toxicologists on its staff and has no provisions for public input before and during the cleanup process. 

“The challenges presented by these sites, as well as their close proximity to one another and nearby residences, warrant a single regulatory agency,” said EPA Secretary Alan C. Lloyd. 

“I also believe that oversight by a single agency will provide the public with a single point of contact to foster better communication and understanding of environmental conditions and site activities and ensure that the various site activities are fully coordinated,” he said. 

Cherokee-Simeon Ventures, a special-purpose corporation formed to develop on remediated hazardous waste sites, is planning developments on both sites. 

A plan for a 1,330-unit housing complex at Campus Bay, the site of a century of chemical manufacturing, remains in limbo. The firm has also been selected by UC Berkeley to develop plans for turning the former field station into a corporate/academic research facility with two million square feet of new buildings.