Washington, DC, May 25, 2018 — The U.S. Navy has found “data manipulation and/or falsification” afflicting years of radiation surveys on the buildings at San Francisco’s Hunters Point shipyard, invalidating its contractor’s claims the buildings are safe for “unrestricted release,” according to a Navy report posted by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). This finding compounds the growing scandal over fraudulent soil samples by the contractor Tetra Tech and pushes the costs and schedule for the nearly 30-year cleanup of this Superfund site deeper into limbo.
The Navy’s March 2018 “Building Radiation Data Initial Evaluation Report” confirms data manipulation allegations by former Tetra Tech employees. It reexamines Tetra Tech radiation surveys submitted from 2008 through 2016 for 28 buildings on six parcels covering most of the 500-acre site and concludes that “the surveys have been falsified and cannot be used.” Among other flaws, the report points to –
- Improper radiation scan speeds “in nearly all survey units” thus rendering its recorded data useless. Moving the scan too rapidly above its design rate prevents accurate detection of radiation levels;
- Evidence of “duplicated data strings” for more than half the buildings, meaning that the exact same printout appears to have been cut and pasted for use on multiple structures; and
- The potential for even more data shortcomings: “This report cannot verify that additional portions of the database have not been manipulated.”
“Contrary to the old saying, the figures apparently do lie at Hunters Point,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, who revealed last month that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined nearly all the Tetra Tech soil samples on a large portion of the site were “neither reliable nor defensible.” “Now we know there was falsification not just of soil contamination measures, but also of the buildings.”
Buildings inappropriately declared clean can be leased out for reuse or torn down and their debris shipped to disposal or recycling sites not designed or licensed for radioactive waste.
Significantly, the report did not review any building in Parcel A, the 75-acre portion of the site already turned over to the city and redeveloped, claiming there were “no data” available to reevaluate. This gap does little to dispel growing concern about the true level of contamination on the small portion of the site already declared clean.
While the Navy is responsible for decontaminating the site, EPA is supposed to make sure the work is complete and correct. Neither agency, however, has indicated what steps will be taken to right this reeling remediation. Much of the key information, such as this latest Navy report, is not made publicly available.
“Instead of moving forward, the Hunters Point cleanup is careening in reverse,” added Ruch, noting that every charge the Tetra Tech whistleblowers have made is being verified, one after another. “To get to the bottom of this mess, perhaps the Tetra Tech whistleblowers should be put in charge.”