Berkeley’s Public Works Department submitted a revised work plan for dredging the lagoon at the north end of Aquatic Park to the Regional Water Quality Control Board last week. It is scheduled to go before the city council for approval in March.
Public works dredged the lagoon without a permit and dumped the spoils near a popular bird-watching spot at the south end of the park in November.
WR Forde—the contractors hired by the city to carry out the dredging—constructed a watertight basin Wednesday to prevent the contaminated spoils from entering the lagoon.
Local environmentalists said they were upset that the company dumped mulch mixed with dredged mud, plastic sheets and sand bags from the excavated basin along the trail on the south shore of the main lagoon Wednesday morning.
The mulch—primarily consisting of decomposing wood chips dumped inside the park by public works last year—was placed adjacent to and on top of clean new wood chips that will be used by the Environmental Greening, Restoration, and Education Team’s (EGRET) student volunteers for the city’s habitat improvement project that begins this weekend at the park.
“Public works is telling us that the spoils are contaminated and have to be taken away to a landfill and then they are piling it on the road,” said Lisa Stephens, a member of the Aquatic Park subcommittee of the Parks and Recreation Commission. “The whole attitude of the Public Works Department towards Aquatic Park should be called into question by the City Council. They don’t repair the roads ... they basically treat it as a dumping ground.”
Complaints from park users led to Public Works removing the decomposing wood chips from the spot the same afternoon.
Mark Liolios, who heads EGRET, said he had been concerned about its possible impacts on student groups. Students from UC Berkeley and Oakland’s Head-Royce School will volunteer at the park over the next couple of weekends.
“The wood chips are very old and according to city staff should only be moved by people wearing suitable respiration gear,” Liolios said. “The spoils are contaminated with lead which are said to be ingestible through breathing when airborne. I was a little unhappy and worried about having school children here.”
Lorin Jensen, head of engineering at public works, said the mulch should not have been placed on the roadway.
“I don’t know how it was placed close to the new mulch,” he said. “I went down and made sure the contractors took it back to the contained area.”
The water board had asked public works to place the spoils in water containment in November.
“The weather did not permit construction,” Jensen told the Planet. “There is a break in the weather now, and we should be able to complete construction by Friday.”
Hamid Kondazi, the project manager for the dredging project who neglected to get approval from the Army Corps of Engineers, the BCDC and the water board for the project, was replaced by Danny Akagi, who is in charge of the city’s storm-water drainage.
Brian Wines, who approves permits for Alameda County at the regional water board, said that he had not had a chance to review the revised plan yet.
According to Jensen, dredging the north end of the lagoon would clear out the debris around the tidal tubes and clean out the Strawberry Creek storm drain to improve circulation.
“The sediment in the five tide tubes blocks water from going through the pipes,” he said. “The elevation of the storm water overflow pipe under Addison Street and the force of the storm water isn’t enough to clean out the pipes.”
Jensen added that Caltrans and the City of Berkeley took turns cleaning the tide tubes.
“It is not clear who has full responsibility for cleaning it,” he said. “The city is doing it this year.”
Public works has determined that the dredged spoils will not be re-used inside Aquatic Park.
“We will probably be taking the spoils to a Class II landfill in Altamont or Vacaville which accepts the lead level found in them,” he said. “It does not meet the stricter requirements the water board has laid down for reusing them in the park.”