Navy seeking comments on cleanup plan for key Alameda Point site

Navy seeking comments on cleanup plan for key Alameda Point site

Michele Ellson

The Navy is seeking the public’s opinion on a proposed $20 million cleanup of 47 acres of Alameda Point that city leaders hope will someday serve as a town center with a mix of homes, businesses and parks.

Comments will be accepted through May 31, and a public hearing on the plan is scheduled for May 15.

The site is now home to a former fuel storage area, a pair of aircraft engine test facilities and a ship fitting and engine repair shop. Their past uses left cobalt, chromium and a host of other toxics in the dirt and a pair of chemicals that have been shown to cause cancer – trichloroethylene, a solvent, and vinyl chloride, a main ingredient in plastic PVC – in groundwater.

The Navy wants to dig up and haul away nearly 20,000 cubic yards of soil contaminated with coolants and fuel byproducts along with cobalt, pesticides, arsenic, antimony, hexavalent chromium and lead and replace it with cleaner dirt so that most of the site – which is roughly bounded by Seaplane Lagoon, Ralph Appezzato Memorial Parkway, and Main Street – is safe for people to live on. Hotspots with higher concentrations of cobalt and chromium, now beneath buildings, would be restricted to commercial use only.

It’s also seeking to use microbes to break down toxics in a contaminated groundwater plume and a heating treatment to eliminate vapors from the chemicals there. Homes would not be permitted on top of the contaminated plume until the toxics are reduced to levels considered safe for residents, and the groundwater would not be used for drinking or other uses.

The Navy studied soil contamination at the site for more than two decades before releasing the proposed plan and has conducted seven treatment pilots since 1999.

The Navy has so far spent more than a half billion dollars cleaning up Alameda Point, cleanup coordinator Derek Robinson said in response to e-mailed questions. Robinson said the Navy expects to finish toxic cleanup at the Point in 2021.

The Navy’s cleanup plans are supposed to protect the public from harmful toxins while balancing feasibility, effectiveness and cost. The Navy must also seek the acceptance of state regulatory bodies – the Navy says the state has assented to this plan – and local communities’ preferences are also considered.

The city hopes to redevelop the former Naval Air Station into a new community and jobs hub with about 1,400 homes, businesses and more than 200 acres of parks and open space. City leaders hope to become the owners of much of the Point this summer, and they are working to complete a pre-development planning effort by early 2014.

The Navy is hosting a public hearing to take comments on the proposed cleanup plan from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. May 15 at the Main Library, 1550 Oak Street. Separately, the Navy will present the proposal to the Restoration Advisory Board, a local group that oversees cleanup efforts at Alameda Point, at its regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at City Hall West, 950 West Mall Square.

Comments may also be offered in writing and submitted via e-mail, at; by fax, at (619) 532-0995; or by mail, to Derek Robinson, BRAC Environmental Coordinator, Department of the Navy, BRAC Program Management Office West, 1455 Frazee Road, Suite 900, San Diego, Calif. 92108-4310.


Submitted by ddw on Wed, May 8, 2013

Question: Is the proposed development of homes, businesses, etc on solid ground? I'm under the impression that alot of Alameda Point/old NASA was a marshland.

Also re: "Homes would not be permitted on top of the contaminated plume until the toxics are reduced to levels considered safe for residents, and the groundwater would not be used for drinking or other uses. " What is the projected timeframe for it to be considered safe?

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Wed, May 8, 2013

Hi there,

According to the brief the Navy put together on this cleanup plan, Alameda Point is 18 feet of fill on top of Bay mud. From their brief:

Alameda Point was created by artificial fill placed to approximately 18 feet below ground surface (bgs). Below the artificial fill are the Bay Sediment Unit, the Posey/Merritt/San Antonio Formation, the Yerba Buena Mud, and the Alameda Formation.

To your second question - the brief doesn't offer a projected time frame, though it looks like they did some testing of the technologies they want to use for groundwater cleanup. It says testing of heating technology for cleaning up groundwater took place in 2006-07 and showed a median decrease of 99 percent in contaminant concentrations. I'd need to research your question more to give you a definitive answer.

Submitted by Robert T. Sullwold on Fri, May 10, 2013

To answer the second question:

• The area involved – known as OU-2B – is composed of four “installation restoration” sites – known as sites 3, 4, 11, and 21;
• The “draft final” – that’s the Navy’s term, not mine – 2013 amendment to the site management plan for Alameda Point contemplates that “remedial action” for the OU-2B sites will begin in May 2015 and last through May 2020;
• The current conveyance schedule published by the City calls for site 3 to be conveyed to the City in 2014 and for sites 4, 11, and 21 to be conveyed to the City in 2019.

For more information about the clean-up plans, go to Richard Bangert’s Alameda Point Environmental Report ( In addition, I will be posting soon on the Alameda Merry-Go-Round ( an analysis of the relationship between the Navy’s clean-up plans and the City’s proposal to develop a Town Center in this area.