FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 6, 2023
Jeff Ruch firstname.lastname@example.org (510) 213-7028
Hunters Point Festering Radiation Waste Woes
Navy Statements Mask Seriousness of Remaining Parcel G Contamination
Washington, DC —The next portion of Hunters Point Naval Shipyard scheduled to be turned over for civilian use still contains highly dangerous radiation waste, according to a complaint filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The group is pressing for an official investigation into false statements by Navy officials downplaying or obfuscating the presence of Strontium-90 (Sr-90), a fission byproduct that causes bone cancer.
In late 2021, the Navy revealed findings of Sr-90 “above remediation levels” in Parcel G, a portion of the site being retested after official findings of widespread falsification of soil samples. Since that time, in various briefings and public statements, the Navy has inaccurately discounted the seriousness of these findings using a variety of deceptive gambits, including –
- Using a remediation level for Sr-90 that is 100 times higher than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) remediation level, to minimize the seriousness of the findings;
- Claiming a natural “background” level for Sr-90 that is ludicrously high, so as to mask the depth of the contamination; and
- Displaying a chart with Sr-90 readings on Parcel G as below zero, a physical impossibility.
“The Navy has not come clean about the amount of radiological waste remaining at Hunters Point,” stated Pacific PEER Director Jeff Ruch, pointing to pollution cover-ups ranging from North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune to Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor. “Rather than continuing to squander its public credibility, the Navy should stop prevaricating and hold those who do so responsible.”
Sr-90 is the longest-lived major fission byproduct requiring hundreds of years to decay to negligible levels. It is a “bone seeker” depositing in bones, bone marrow, blood, and soft tissues.
In internal emails, EPA officials objected to Navy attempts to declare that the Sr-90 exceedances were not valid data. EPA explicitly wrote the Navy:
“[t]he previous strontium-90 results are valid data. It’s inaccurate to suggest the data were not precise enough. EPA has been clear that in the absence of convincing evidence, we cannot support using the new data to supersede existing results.”
That same EPA official wrote the Navy objecting to a draft public statement, noting that from a communications perspective: “It reads as if the Navy is suppressing data results it doesn’t like in regards to strontium-90 data.”
PEER obtained these emails though Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. But the EPA has stopped responding to PEER FOIA requests and will not provide any timetable for record production. As a result, PEER today sued EPA to restart the flow of Hunters Point documents.
“As this critical juncture in the long cleanup of Hunters Point nears, this a time for heightened, not diminished scrutiny,” added Ruch. “EPA’s correction of the Navy’s repeated misstatements should not be kept behind closed doors but should be shared with the public both agencies are supposed to serve.”