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Workers Group Blames Legislators For Botched SF Shipyard Cleanup

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- A public workers' advocacy group at a rally in San Francisco Monday criticized Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, for allegedly failing to do enough about the cleanup of radiological contamination at the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.

Members of United Public Workers for Action also charged that the two legislators have failed to protect whistleblowers and called for a criminal investigation of their alleged lack of action.

"This is the largest eco-fraud in the United States," group member Steve Zeltzer told a crowd of about 30 supporters in front of the Federal Building.

Read: Hunters Point Cleanup Dubbed 'Biggest Case Of Eco-Fraud In U.S. History'

"Why are most of the politicians silent?" Zeltzer asked.

The alleged fraud concerns the U.S. Navy's former contract with Tetra Tech EC of Pasadena to remove contamination, including radioactive soil and materials, from about 500 acres of the former shipyard slated for development for industry, offices and housing.

A preliminary investigation by the Navy concluded in September that there was evidence of data manipulation or falsification on soil samples taken from two parcels after the cleanup of those sections was supposed to have been completed. The two parcels make up about 40 percent of the

The Navy said that 49 percent of the soil samples for one parcel were suspect and 15 percent were suspect for the other parcel.

A second review of the information by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and two state agencies in December revealed more widespread alleged falsification.

The EPA review concluded that a total of 97 percent of the samples in one parcel and 90 percent in the other were suspect. The two agencies joining the EPA were the California Department of Toxic Substances Control and Department of Public Health.

"In summary, the data analyzed showed a widespread pattern of practices that appear to show deliberate falsification, failure to complete the work in a manner required...or both," John Chesnutt, a regional EPA Superfund manager, wrote to the Navy on Dec. 17, 2017.

Chesnutt's letter was made public last week by Washington, D.C.-based Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility after that organization obtained it in a Freedom of Information Act request.

Derek Robinson, the Navy's coordinator of the cleanup, said the Navy's next step is to develop a new plan for sampling the soil in consultation with the federal and state regulatory agencies. He said he hopes work will begin on the resampling by the end of the summer.

"The Navy is absolutely committed to completing the cleanup as soon as possible and making sure it's thorough," Robinson said.

Tetra Tech has not had a contract with the Navy since 2015, he said.

Transfer of the property to the city for redevelopment has been put on hold until the cleanup is completed, with the exception of 75 acres transferred to the city in 2004. That section was formerly used for housing and administrative offices and was not seriously polluted.

The area, closed as a Navy shipyard in 1974, was designated in 1989 as an EPA Superfund site, having priority as one of the most toxic cleanup sites in the nation.

The radiation contamination stemmed from the use of the yard to clean ships exposed to atom bombs and tests and for research on defense against nuclear weapons. Other contaminants from shipyard operations included petroleum compounds, mercury and lead.

U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Abraham Simmons said he could not comment on whether there is a criminal investigation of Tetra Tech or of any legislators.

Pelosi spokeswoman Taylor Griffin said, "Leader Pelosi and her staff continue to closely monitor the cleanup of the Hunters Point shipyard."

Following comprehensive examinations by the Navy and EPA showing contractor fraud was more extensive than initially believed, her staff is in close touch with both agencies as they formulate an appropriate plan for certain rescanning and retesting.

"Public health and safety remains our top concern, while working to ensure the timely delivery of long-awaited housing and jobs when the cleanup is completed," Griffin said.

A spokesperson for Feinstein was not immediately available for comment.

The Navy began investigating Tetra Tech in 2012 after learning that some purported soil samples came from outside the cleanup locations.

In 2016, according to a Navy fact sheet, former cleanup employees additionally alleged that potentially contaminated soil samples were swapped for clean samples, potentially contaminated soil was placed in open trenches in other areas around the shipyard, misleading data reports were prepared and computer data was tampered with to indicate lower levels of radiation.

© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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