Richmond, CA -- At 7 a.m. on Friday, April 29, 2005 East Bay residents, workers and business owners held a protest at the Zeneca/Cherokee-Simeon Campus Bay and the University of California Field Station sites on the south Richmond shoreline of the San Francisco Bay. Speakers: Sherry Padgett and City Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin.
Produced by L A Wood, Berkeley Citizen. All labor donated.
Richmond Progressive Alliance
West County Toxics Coalition
Bay Area Residents for Responsible Development
Richmond Residents Demand Action by Cal EPA.......
Richmond, CA -- At 7 a.m. on Friday, April 29, 2005 East Bay residents,
workers and business owners held a protest at the Zeneca/Cherokee-Simeon
Campus Bay and the University of California Field Station sites on
the south Richmond shoreline of the San Francisco Bay.
The rally is expected to last one hour, coinciding with the arrival
of workers. Speakers at the event will include recently elected Richmond
City Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin and Richmond cardiologist Dr.
Jeff Ritterman. Cosponsoring groups include the Richmond Progressive
Alliance, West County Toxics Coalition, Bay Area Residents for Responsible
Development (BARRD), the Sierra Club, Mothers Against Threatening
Toxic Emissions in Richmond (MATTER) and the West Contra Costa Alameda
Chapter of the National Autism Association and other individuals and
organizations working to protect and clean up the East Bay shoreline.
On March 1, 2005 the Richmond City Council passed a unanimous resolution
requesting Cal EPA to assign oversight to the Department of Toxic
Substances Control (DTSC) for the ongoing hazardous substance cleanup
on both the UC property and the Zeneca/Cherokee-Simeon sites in order
to achieve “maximum protection of human health and the environment.”
Richmond City Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin’s resolution was
supported by Contra Costa Public Health Director, Dr. Wendel Brunner,
in a written endorsement stating, “the Regional Water Quality
Control Board has neither the expertise or experience to handle a
site this complex.”
Cal EPA has, so far, been unresponsive to community requests to change
agency responsibility for overseeing cleanup of these two sites, which
are among the Bay Area’s most polluted properties. At present,
two different agencies within Cal EPA share oversight: the San Francisco
Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Department of Toxic
Substances Control (DTSC). The water board is charged with preserving
and restoring the quality of water resources, while DTSC is responsible
for regulating hazardous waste and cleaning up existing contamination
while ensuring public health.
After Cal EPA failed to act by the promised April 15, 2005 deadline,
Councilmember McLaughlin stated, “Cal/EPA has often said in
the past that they want to work with local government. When our City
Council unanimously and urgently asks for their help, we'd like to
think that they could move more quickly. In addition, we are very
disturbed by what appears to be the Water Board’s attempt to
maintain turf at the expense of public safety.”
A history fact sheet is available. Phone and studio interviews can
Directions: UC Berkeley Field Station and Zeneca/Cherokee-Simeon site
are located at Meade & South 47th Street in Richmond. From I-80,
take I-580 West toward Pt. Richmond and the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge.
Take the exit toward Regatta Blvd. Turn right on Erlandson Street.
Turn Left onto Meade St.
Desire for stricter controls and more effective governmental oversight
of the ongoing toxic site clean-up has been the center of strong citizen
action for more than a year in the community surrounding the 152 acre
UC Berkeley Richmond Field Station and the 85 acre Zeneca/Stauffer
Chemical Plant and Western Research Facility (now owned by Cherokee
Investments and Simeon Properties).
On November 6, 2004, local California Assemblymember, Loni Hancock,
held a public hearing and requested Cal EPA to change agency jurisdiction
immediately. Cal EPA made a partial change, splitting oversight between
the water board and DTSC. This change yielded some improvements but
also, a lot of public confusion, communication gaps and safety risks.
Hancock has now introduced California Assembly Bill 1360 to correct
the regulatory loophole that allowed the properties to sidestep DTSC
jurisdiction when cleanup processes began nearly seven years ago.
Cal EPA is using a newly developed internal method spelled out in
a Memorandum of Agreement between the water board and DTSC to dictate
the process by which the agencies agree on a jurisdictional change.
The MOA was finalized February 2005 and calls for each of two executive
levels of the agencies to work out their differences before elevating
the mediation to the Secretary of Cal EPA for settlement. After six
weeks, only one executive-level meeting regarding the controversial
Richmond site has been completed even though the MOA process is intentionally
limited to 30 days. To date, executives within the water board and
DTSC have not found a way to transfer oversight.
Frustrated citizens of Richmond and surrounding communities want to
move forward with site clean-up, but only if the entire site is under
the oversight and protection of DTSC, with the water board providing
the expertise on water quality restoration. Aside from the water board’s
demonstrated lack of competence in protecting the community, the DTSC
process permits some public input to the cleanup process – a
vitally needed change in order to keep the developers responsive to
Bay Area Residents for Responsible Development spokesperson, Sherry
Padgett, said "we've waited for too many years and seen too many
people seriously ill to be told once again to be patient." BARRD
is a coalition formed in response to earlier activities on the site. Within
the fenced property along the heavily traveled Bay Trail, hikers see
signs declaring “marsh restoration”, but that is the only
notification that hazardous substances may be present. There are no
signs warning of hazardous substances, where or what they are, or
their toxicity. Nor are there signs indicating that these sites are
undergoing “cleanup” in order to facilitate massive new
Despite the high levels of toxic chemicals on these sites, children
attend after-school activities at the Cherokee-Simeon site, and there
are periodic “field trips” at the UC site, without proper
notification to the teachers and parents of their children’s
possible exposure to highly toxic materials.
Known PCB, DDT and BHC hazardous waste hotspots on the UC Field Station
property are within 250 feet of the densely populated Richmond Redevelopment
residential housing jewel, Marina Bay. The backyards of homes and
apartments face the area scheduled for further cleanup.
Water board regulations do not require public notification of nearby
residents or business owners of the risks associated with ongoing
hazardous substance remediation. Furthermore, DTSC has stricter standards
for thresholds of toxins carried in airborne dust. It also has the
authority to create and enforce long-term deed restrictions, which
may be necessary for safe property use.
The recent round of toxic cleanup in the Zeneca/Cherokee-Simeon portion
of East Stege Marsh stopped on March 31, 2005, after a one month extension
into the endangered Clapper Rail mating season. More marsh clean-up
on both properties is scheduled to begin September 1, 2005, when the
Clapper Rail mating season ends. Upland areas away from the marsh
were cleaned up several years ago. Hot spots are reemerging and may
be scheduled for cleanup sooner than September 1, 2005.
The protesting groups are also opposed to irresponsible plans by Zeneca/
Cherokee and UC Berkeley for future development that would expose
thousands area residents to life threatening toxic substances for
years to come. At issue are the two properties that are contaminated
as a result of decades of manufacturing related primarily to defense
and agricultural chemical production.
According to the water board and DTSC, these properties are loaded
with extremely toxic substances, including heavy metals (arsenic,
lead, mercury and more), pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, PCBs
and volatile and semi-volatile organic chemicals.