Navy Refuses to Probe Hunters Point Toxic Disinformation

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Thursday, June 15, 2023
Jeff Ruch (510) 213-7028


Navy Refuses to Probe Hunters Point Toxic Disinformation

Navy IG Won’t Review False Statements on Sr-90 Levels in Clean Parcel


Washington, DC —The Navy’s Office of Inspector General (IG) has declined to investigate a series of untrue statements Navy officials made to the Mayor of San Francisco and community groups concerning harmful levels of radiation in part of Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in response to a complaint filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Those statements inaccurately downplayed the significance of high readings of Strontium-90 (Sr-90), a fission byproduct that causes bone cancer, on the next portion of Hunters Point slated to be turned over for civilian use.

In a June 7, 2023 email, the Navy IG Commander for its Facilities Engineering arm explained —

“Currently, there are 12 active lawsuits filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco, arising out of or connected to former HPNS.  The Department of the Navy is party in six of the lawsuits.  Due to the open ligation, we determined that an investigation will not be opened and we will take no action at this time.”

This echoes a March 12, 2019 rebuff of a requested IG probe by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D- San Francisco), citing U.S. Department of Justice advice that “a separate investigation…would not be advisable, as it may unnecessarily risk the integrity of the ongoing federal lawsuit” on alleged sampling fraud by a Navy contractor.

“The Inspector General says that Hunters Point is too screwed up to unravel, although it sorely needs sorting out,” remarked Pacific PEER Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the Strontium-90 matter is not currently the subject of any litigation. “Without any external examination, senior Navy officials can lie to local officials and the public with impunity, knowing that there will be no negative career consequences no matter how egregious the lapses in candor.”

Meanwhile, the Navy has yet to explain Sr-90 readings that are way above U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) remediation levels in Parcel G, which is supposed to be transferred to the City of San Francisco. Hunters Point has been a Superfund site since 1989. While EPA is supposed to supervise Superfund cleanups, it has presided over a series of scandals that have triggered many of the lawsuits.

In documents PEER had previously obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, EPA officials had been critical of the Navy’s handling of the Sr-90 findings. In recent months, however, EPA stopped responding to FOIA requests from PEER and the group sued EPA in April to compel production. In the ensuing weeks. EPA has yet to turn over a single document.

“Hunters Point is the poster child for how Superfund cleanups are not supposed to proceed,” added Ruch, noting big questions remain about the sufficiency of remediation efforts after more than thirty years. “It’s clear both EPA and the Navy are doing everything they can to avoid institutional accountability for Hunters Point.”


See the Navy IG declination

Read the PEER complaint

View the similar IG rebuff of Rep. Pelosi’s probe request

Look at EPA’s lack of transparency

Revisit lingering questions over adequacy of Hunters Point cleanup

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