Ujamaa ARC's Report Parcel E
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Press Release

The attached technical report was prepared by Arc Ecology to provide background information to the Community First Coalition. Arc Ecology reviewed the Navy’s Remedial Investigation and supplementary reports and technical memorandum to compile this information. This report shows that actual contents of the landfill remain ill defined and largely unknown.

This is because the Navy has conducted very little investigation to determine exactly what is in the landfill. The Navy deemed such information unnecessary because the Navy (and regulators) never seriously considered removing the landfill. Rather, the Navy wants to cap the landfill (cover it up).

Most of the sampling in and around the landfill was intended to help the Navy define the extent of the contaminated area so they know how large a cover to build. Consequently most of the soil borings and test pits were not located in the thickest parts of the debris zones, but along the edges. Furthermore, boring log and test pits inventory only what the environmental technicians saw. Liquid wastes might not be seen.

Hunters Point Landfill: The Inside Story

A Technical Briefing for the Community First Coalition

By Chris Shirley, Arc Ecology

September 14,2000

Comments on Results of Water, Soil, and Air Sampling Collected Because of the Hunters Point Fire

Soil Sampling

Results of the Navy’s one soil sample are consistent with the types of contamination known to exist in the landfill area.[1] Unexpected are the high concentrations of lead, copper, and other heavy metals very near the surface of the landfill. These surface water samples show that these toxic metals have the potential to run off into the Bay during rainfall.

Water Sampling

The Navy’s surface water sample showed significantly elevated concentrations[2] of heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, chromium, cobalt copper, lead, mercury, nickel and zinc). Petroleum concentrations were slightly elevated. This is consistent with known types of contamination in the landfill area. Table 1 shows how elevated concentrations of contaminants in surface water compare to groundwater trigger levels developed for Parcel B.[3] Parcel B trigger levels are water discharge limits that must not be exceeded according to the Parcel B Record of Decision. They do not apply directly to Parcel E, but they give a sense of the magnitude of contamination. Parcel E trigger levels, when developed, are likely to be similar to those developed for Parcel B, since they focus on protecting Bay ecology.

Table 1: Surface Water Contamination Compared to Parcel B Groundwater Trigger Levels

Groundwater Trigger Level (ug/l)
Result #1

Result #2











This water sampling data indicates that the Navy must ensure that water flow from the landfill surface does not flow to the Bay.

The water used to flood the area during the initial firefighting is thought to have been absorbed into the landfill.[5] This water is now thought to be “groundwater.” The Navy is not certain whether the sheet pile wall will catch this water before it hits the Bay. The Navy is conducting groundwater studies to determine if and where the firefighting water has collected and whether it is likely to get into the Bay.[6]

Air Sampling Data

The Navy reported that only benzene was detected above levels of concern, at 4.6 ug/m3. They reported that typical background concentration for the area is 1 ug/m3. EPA made the claim that the elevated level could be as a result of car exhaust. EPA provided no evidence to support this claim. The Navy’s “Final Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis” for the groundwater plume removal action shows elevated levels of benzene in the fire area in groundwater located just below ground surface (44 micrograms per liter). See Figure 1 of this report. The benzene in the air could have come from this source. More investigation is needed.

Landfill Background

The history of the Industrial landfill is not well documented.[7] Aerial photographs show that the Navy filled a bay inlet with shipyard wastes from 1958 until 1974 to form the landfill area. The Navy dumped an estimated 1 million cubic yards of debris in the inlet.[8] The debris zone is estimated to be 15 feet thick.[9]

Navy records show that little control was placed on disposal of both solid and liquid chemical materials at the site.[10] In 1959, the Navy began using the landfill site to dispose of most of its solid waste.[11] Twenty-one thousand gallons of liquid wastes were also disposed of in the landfill, including used solvents, paint sludge, oils, and greases. The Navy disposed of an estimated twenty-six tons of paint scrapings in the landfill. Prior to 1960 much of the paint scrapings and sludge contained lead.[12] According to the Remedial Investigation, the landfill is reported to contain domestic garbage, construction debris, industrial debris and waste, sandblast grit, domestic refuse, paints and solvents, paint sludge, waste oil, oily industrial sand, asbestos-containing material, and a scattering of radium dials.[13] A source of chlorine gas also exists in the landfill but exactly what it is remains unknown. Pressurized industrial tanks are the prime suspect.[14] Boring logs from the area confirm these reports (see table 2).

Water from the landfill is contaminated with heavy metals, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), pesticides, petroleum products, and volatile organic compounds (including benzene). The source of this contamination is assumed to be from debris in the landfill. PCBs are thought to pose the greatest threat (to the Bay) because there are numerous detections well above screening criteria (trigger levels).[15] Figure 1 shows the location of a benzene “hit” in the shallow groundwater within the fire area.

Table 2: Debris described in boring logs and test pits

Wood and metal debris

Wood chips



Roofing material

Paper and cardboard


Brick fragments

Ceramic tile
Cloth, rags

Asbestos cloth

Coils of copper wire

Wire insulation

Electrical wire

Metal: steel, brass, nails






Paint scrapings

Sandblast grit

5 gallon paint cans

Petroleum waste

Tyvek suits

Radium dials (rare)

Source of chlorine gas

Source: Remedial Investigation, Appendix J

The landfill was not properly engineered. Consequently contamination has leaked into the Bay. Between 1974 and 1975, the Navy took steps to stem the flow of contamination from the landfill into the Bay.[16] They installed a drainage system to divert storm water away from the landfill area, and covered it with 2 feet of compacted fill.[17] In 1997, the Navy built a 600 foot steel wall along the shoreline to help impede the flow of groundwater from the landfill into the Bay. The wall is made of interlocking steel plates pounded into the bay mud. It does not extend all the way around the landfill area. Any water that collects on the shoreline side of the wall is pumped to the southeast sewage treatment plant.[18] Some of the fire area is beyond the influence of the sheet pile wall.

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[1] All sampling results are reported in a fax sent by the BRAC Office to Arc Ecology on September 12, 2000

[2] Reported concentrations were compared to groundwater remediation goals for Parcel B.

[3] Sampling and Analysis Plan, Parcel B Remedial Action, April 1999

[4] Treasure Island Screening Level

[5] Personal communication with Brad Job, Regional Water Quality Control Board, September 14, 2000

[6] Personal communication with Brad Job, Regional Water Quality Control Board, September 14, 2000

[7] Remedial Investigation, page 4-85

[8] Remedial Investigation, page 4-87

[9] Remedial Investigation, Appendix D, page 2

[10] Initial Assessment, October 1984, page 8-3

[11] Initial Assessment, October 1984, page 6-1

[12] Initial Assessment, October 1984, page 8-4

[13] Remedial Investigation, page 4-87

[14] Post Construction Report, Site 1/21 Industrial Landfill, page 2-10

[15] Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis, Site 1/21 Industrial Landfill

[16] Remedial Investigation, page 4-86

[17] Remedial Investigation, page 4-86

[18] Post Construction Report, Site 1/21 Industrial Landfill Removal Action Report, Chapter 2