By Daniel Borsuk
Contra Costa County Supervisors unanimously launched on Tuesday a full-scale probe into whether radioactive tainted soil was illegally dumped at the Keller Canyon Landfill near Pittsburg.
At the request of District 5 Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg, who had initially learned about the allegations after reading a San Francisco Chronicle newspaper article about how Hunters Point Naval Shipyard contractor, Tetra Tech’s radioactive debris removal practices dating back to 2011 may have wound up at the Contra Costa County landfill and other state landfills not designated for nuclear waste. Supervisors requested that the Navy investigate the allegations and report back to the supervisors in 30 days.
Having the Navy come back in and investigate the Tetra Tech contract is the priority item supervisors have in mind, but board chair Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill said in order to quickly get the attention of the Navy to act on this issue the county also needs the political clout of state and federal legislators. She also requested that Tetra Tech pick up any costs associated with soil testing at Keller Canyon Landfill.
In the meantime, supervisors requested the county hire a soils specialist to detect if the landfill contains radioactive materials that could have been illegally deposited by Tetra Tech. The soils consultant contract does not require supervisors’ approval if it is less than $50,000.
District 3 Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood wanted to hear from Tetra Tech, which did not send a representative to the supervisors’ meeting, over a number of incidents when radiation monitors at the entrance of the Pittsburg landfill have reportedly been triggered.
“I want to put a hold on Tetra Tech and Hunters Point deliveries to Keller Canyon,” Burgis demanded.
Keller Canyon Landfill General Manager Rick King informed supervisors Republic has stopped accepting truck loads from Tetra Tec since the news coverage broke on April 22.
“We’re doing everything we can,” said King in preventing nuclear tainted material from winding up at the landfill. He explained how the radiation monitors work, the 24-hour security, and other security procedures Republic Services uses to block truckloads of illegal material from entering and unloading debris at the landfill.
With the Hunters Point project, Keller Canyon Landfill has 13 different profiles, King said. “Every truck load needs a manifest or it won’t be allowed to enter the landfill. Then it has to pass our radiation monitors,” he said.
From 2011 to 2017, Keller Canyon received 223,000 tons of waste from Hunters Points Shipyard, according to county Health Department records. On two occasions, June 2014 and February 2015 soil and material had to be returned to Hunters Point, according to Marilyn Underwood, Director of Environmental Health for the Contra Costa County Department of Health Services. The details on the contents of those two loads were not released.
“You should have appointed the city of Pittsburg as the lead enforcement agency,” warned former Pittsburg City Councilmember Nancy Parent. Parent said the county has not been able to properly monitor the landfill, especially now that it is a Grade 2 landfill capable of accepting dirt from Hunters Point. “It’s all about money” Parent said.
At one point, Board Chair Mitchoff entertained the idea of whether the county should cease being the lead enforcement agency of Keller Canyon, but none of her board colleagues supported that idea.
“This is a complicated issue. We need to get the right people at the table. We don’t have the expertise. We need to have a report back in 30 days,” Mitchoff ordered.
“I really do appreciate my colleagues for the enthusiastic support in involving the Navy, getting our state and federal legislators involved and making sure that our constituents know that the county serves as the lead enforcement agency on this matter,” said Glover.
Pasadena-based company Tetra Tech Chief Executive Office Dan Barach said in a statement:
“In light of the barrage of recent and misleading media reports, Tetra Tech is compelled to defend itself and its work at Hunters Point.
“Our company has sought to follow all the required standards and protections and to operate in a thorough, honest and professional manner to provide testing and clean-up services as required by our contract. We are proud of our high standards and professionalism on this contact, and all the work we perform for clients. Equally important, we have worked to make this site, and all sites where Tetra Tech works, safe for community members and residents.
$454,772 Sheriff-Coroner Livescan Contract OK’d
Supervisors voted 5-0 in approving a five-year $454,772 contract with Gemalto Cogent to maintain the Sheriff-Coroner Office’s Livescan fingerprint system. The contract is in effect from Jan. 1, 2018 through Dec. 3, 2022. The Sheriff-Coroner Office Livescan is used identify persons involved in motor vehicle crimes. Supervisors approved the contract as a consent agenda item.