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Hunters Point Shipyard Residents Reach $6.3M Settlement In Radiation Lawsuit

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) – A lawsuit filed by homeowners at the Hunters Point Shipyard against the homes' developers over radiation contamination will be settled for $6.3 million, an attorney representing the homeowners said Wednesday.

The suit, filed in 2018, alleged landowner Lennar and developer Five Point Holdings developed and sold about 350 homes at the site for about $1 million each, but kept homeowners in the dark about toxic radiation in the soil.

Both Lennar and Five Point Holdings have to the settlement after a federal judge last week approved the preliminary settlement, according to attorney Joe Cotchett, attorney for the homeowners.

The settlement will be finalized during a court hearing on Oct. 14, Cotchett said.

Engineering firm Tetra Tech, hired by the Navy in 2002 to clean up the radiation at the former site of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, was also named in the suit, accused of falsifying and manipulating data to minimize evidence of soil contamination.

Evidence of falsified and manipulated data first surfaced in 2017, and although two former Tetra Tech employees pleaded guilty to falsifying records of the contamination in 2018, Tetra Tech has denied knowing about the falsified soil samples.

"The southeastern neighborhoods of San Francisco provide a case study in environmental racism, most San Franciscans have no idea that HPNS was ground zero in the atomic era, or that it was very purposely the dumping ground for nuclear waste, nor do they understand the deep-seated politics that continue to value economic development over human life," Cotchett said in a statement.

"Let us be candid here, as alleged in the complaint, the most culpable party is Tetra Tech -- Tetra Tech is the one whose supervising employees have been to prison for swapping clean soil for contaminated soil. The developers should have had access to information that prospective purchasers did not have," he said.

Although Tetra Tech is not involved in the settlement, Cotchett said its approval will allow his clients to focus on legal action against the firm.

"My wife and I chose to be among the early purchasers in the S.F. shipyards, which was supposed to be an engine for revitalization of the Bayview and Hunters Point neighborhoods -- communities that been victimized by over a century of environmental racism," said plaintiff Theo Ellington. "Because of what the government is now alleging was a fraud-riddled cleanup, this portion of San Francisco may never be cleared of toxins. The settlement with Lennar and Five Point gets money to homeowners to compensate them for a portion of the diminution in value they have experienced and allows us to focus on our claims against Tetra Tech."

The site in southeast San Francisco was exposed to radiation between 1946 and 1969, when it was used as a radiological defense laboratory by the Navy to study the effects of radiation on animals and materials, and to decontaminate ships used in atomic bomb testing. In 1974 the 500-acre former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard was decommissioned and closed for redevelopment.

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