Navy Announces Cleanup Plans – Public Meeting August 31, 2011

OU-2A cleanup area - Seaplane Lagoon and USS Hornet are to the left - numbered areas are individual site #s

After years of investigation, the Navy, along with the federal and state regulators, has come up with a remediation plan for 39 acres, encompassing five sites, called Operating Unit 2A. On Wednesday, August 31, the Navy will spell out its plan for remediation and solicit comments.  The meeting will be at City Hall West at Alameda Point, 950 West Mall Square, Room 201 from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm.

Operating Unit 2A is roughly one block away from the soccer fields on the south side of Alameda Point and one block away from the USS Hornet.  The Unit has contamination issues that date back to 1879 when the Pacific Coast Oil Works Company began operating an oil refinery near Main Street.

The main two highlights up for discussion are:

Building 410

Building 410 is where the Navy operated an aircraft paint stripping facility.  The soil was found to be clean, but toxic chemicals seeped into the groundwater.  The conclusion reached by the Navy and regulators is that no active remediation efforts need to be conducted.  Instead, they will rely on “natural attenuation,” which means to let nature take its course through dilution, dispersion, and biodegradation of the contaminants.

Building 410 - former paint stripping building

Their rationale for not undertaking a vigorous program to clean the groundwater to drinking water safety levels is that no one will ever be using it for drinking water, especially because of high salt content.  No wells are permitted and, even if a well was desired for drinking water, there is pure water at the much deeper 100-foot depth.  They also claim that vapors will not intrude into structures because it is in the second water-bearing zone and, therefore, the water zone above will act as a barrier.

Building 397

Building 397 is where the Navy operated an aircraft overhaul plant and engine test facility.  The plan here is to use bioremediation to degrade the chemicals.  It calls for injecting molecular oxygen into the ground in order to stimulate the growth of naturally occurring bacteria that will digest the chemicals.  It’s not going to be a 100% quick fix.  At a certain point, the oxygen injections will stop and the site will be monitored while nature takes its course, which could be decades. 

Petroleum Program

You won’t hear about significant parts of the cleanup program for this area because, strange as it seems, much of it falls under a separate cleanup program called the Petroleum Program administered by the San Francisco Bay Area Water Quality Control Board. The Navy does not ask for public feedback on any aspects of the Petroleum Program because federal legislation separates it from the superfund cleanup process being administered by the Navy. The following three sites in OU 2A entail important cleanup activities under the Petroleum Program and are not included in Wednesday’s public presentation.

  • The vacant lot where the old Pacific Coast Oil Refinery was located.
  • Site 22 where a gasoline distribution and service station was operated from 1971 to 1980.
  • Site 23 where plane defueling operations took place between 1953 and the early 1970s.

Site 13 - vacant lot is where Pacific Oil Refinery once operated

Much has been done to remediate underground fuel contamination under the Petroleum Program at Alameda Point.  Not much has been done to explain the efforts to the public.  The Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) occasionally receives a verbal report on the Petroleum Program from the Water Board along with an announcement that a large binder full of charts and graphs is upstairs if we care to read it.

Learn more

To learn more, come to the information meeting on Wednesday and also to the RAB regular meeting on Thursday, September 1, 6:30 pm on the first floor of City Hall West at the rear of the building.

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