Campus Chemical Waste
Disaster in the Planning:
UC Replacement Waste Facility


Campus Chemical Waste: Disaster in the Planning (1994) was premiered on the steps of the Berkeley City Hall with the aid of a small TV monitor and generator. This public policy video was made in response to the 1994 plan to place the new UCB hazardous waste facility in Berkeley's Strawberry Canyon watershed.

Speakers include Berkeley Fire Chief Cates and David Brower. Campus Chemical Waste: Disaster in the Planning was viewed by both Berkeley's Planning Commission and the City Council.

San Francisco Chronicle, East Bay Section. Friday, September 16, 1994

Coming today at a theater near you-or, at least the steps of Berkeley’s City Hall: the premiere showing of “Campus Chemical Waste: Disaster in the Planning”. This is a kickoff to mobilization,” said Wood. “Everyone says this is a NIMBY (not-in-my-back-yard) thing, but it’s an issue that has crossed the city and crossed political lines. We are trying to say that UC needs to change the decision-making process and reevaluate the sites.”

The thirteen-minute production documents controversy over a proposal by the University of California at Berkeley to build a $9.5 million hazardous-materials transfer facility in the rolling hills above campus.

The video, by L A Wood and Carolyn Erbele, features comments from community and university officials with footage of toxic storage containers looming behind cyclone fences and shots of the 1991 fire raging through the East Bay hills. <Read more below>


San Francisco Chronicle continued...

Equipped with a video cassette recorder, a television, and a small gas generator, Wood and Erbele plan to show their low-budget production from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. today and again next week.
Berkeley hills neighbors have mustered support from city official, students, environmental leaders and city residents in opposing the university preferred plan for expanding its overloaded hazardous-waste facility.

The university for more than twenty years has operated the Canyon Chemical Facility in the hills above the Memorial Stadium, where 110 tons of chemicals and low-level radioactive waste generated each year by the labs on campus are packaged. The facility stores the materials for up to 90 days until trucks transport the containers to recyclers and dumps around the country.

With the amount of scientific research increasing on campus and more demanding regulations on waste handling, the university needs a more sophisticated and roomier facility.
The draft environmental impact report released last month identified a site one-quarter of a mile away from the current facility as the best spot for expansion.

But community advocates say the site is too close to houses and in an area prone to fires, earthquakes and mudslides.
Berkeley Fire Chief Cary Cates, speaking in the video agreed: If the university is successful in locating the site here, it will be contrary to the efforts made by the city to mitigate fire hazards.”

Community advocates have called on the university to respond to its waste-handling problems by reducing the amount produced and by putting the new transfer station facility on campus close to labs.

“We do want to replace the current facility, but we are responsive to the community,” said Michael Dobbins, the university director of physical and environmental planning.”

“It’s important for the public to understand that the Callaghan Hall site (on campus) is a serious option that we are studying more over the next few weeks.”

Public Hearings on the draft environmental impact report are scheduled for September 29. The City Council earlier opposed putting a new waste facility in Strawberry Canyon. The council is expected to vote Tuesday to show the video at its meeting September 27, 1994

David BrowerCampus Chemical Waste: Disaster in the Planning
City Council Presentation September 27, 1994 (Script)

(DAVID BROWER)  A stadium on the Hayward Fault. The only good things about the Hayward Fault are that the University of California students side is on a fairly stable hill. and the Stanford students are sitting on the side that will collapse laughter

The campanile bells fade in as the laughter fades out. Intimate shots of the Central Campus. Long enough to create a mood and beginning pace. Beautiful, collegiate UCB.

(PAT GOUGH) The Berkeley campus, as everybody knows, generates significant volumes of hazardous waste. The campus uses over 9,000 different chemicals in teaching, research, and maintaining the campus, and we take up over 110 tons of chemical waste for processing each year. The campus also generates over 4.000 cubic feet of low level radioactive dry waste, and over 600 gallons of low level radioactive liquid waste. But we need a new facility to ensure that the hazardous materials are properly handled and disposed of to prevent and minimize injury to human health and the environment.

waste barrels(MICHAEL DOBBINS) Hi, I'm Mike Dobbins, Director of Planning, for Planning, Design, and Construction at UC Berkeley. The site that we're standing on is about a quarter of a mile from where the activities presently take place. This site is on a hillside, upstream from -- or up the hill from Strawberry Canyon. I think it's clear that the very name of the facility, hazardous materials handling facility, is one that causes a great deal of concern. So from that perspective, there probably isn't a best site or a perfect site for this operation. Should we locate it in Strawberry Canyon where we're presently standing, or should it be on the Central Campus?

(BRADLEY ANGEL) Most people had no idea about this facility, and no idea that the University is planning, while paying up service to reducing waste, planning a four size expansion of the size of this facility. What we're talking about is a hazardous and radioactive waste facility that frankly nobody wants, for good reasons! Because we're talking about about hazardous and radioactive materials.

(CHIEF CATES) I'm Gary Cates, Fire Chief of the City of Berkeley. Strawberry Canyon has been designated as an extremely hazardous fire area by the State of California. After the fire of 1991, the Fire Department and the City Council of Berkeley began a program to make the Hill Area a safer place. Should the University expand the current facility that they have up there now by rebuilding it, that would be contrary to the things that we're trying to do in the Berkeley hills to make for a safer environment.

earthquake map(DOBBINS) The environmental Impact Report will compare the effects of building in this location with building on the campus locations from the perspective of transportation, security, health impacts, biological considerations, geologic considerations, risks of various kinds, including the possibility of wildfires, or onsite or insite fires, the effects on the environment in the three possible locations, the effects of geology, the kind of soil, and underlying surface materials on which the site would be built. Part of the EIR will be a descriptions of the waste minimization program and how it's functioning.

(ANGEL) The University says, "Yes, we are concerned about waste minimization," but in reality, if you look, what they're talking about is the same old waste management.

(GOUGH) There are a number of programs in which the campus has been working toward to improve its waste minimization programs, and we do have a number of them in place.

(ANGEL) The problem is that when the University says that they are implementing an aggressive pollution from waste minimization program, and that no reduction in overall volume is expected, I say that reduction program is not good enough.

caution sign for hazardous waste(CHIEF CATES) Behind me is Centennial Road as it comes up from the campus area. As you can see, it's extremely narrow. If we had to move fire apparatus up this road during the congested traffic, which exists most of the time, we would meet people trying to evacuate, coming down the other way. Two way traffic on a street like this during fire conditions is extremely difficult and dangerous. I would just recommend that that site be reconsidered because of the fact that it is in an extremely hazardous fire area. And that's well-known by everybody.

(FREDRICA DROTOS) The City Council voted unanimously against this site in November, and since then has adopted several resolutions asking no funding happening.. . happen for this site unless it is put on the Central Campus. We're saying put it on the Central Campus in close proximity to the labs that are generating the waste.

(TAMLYN BRIGHT) Many people will say that it is unsafe to put a hazardous waste facility on the Central Campus. To them, I would say, with 2,500 labs on the campus already, we are surrounded by these chemicals every day.

(CHIEF CATES) There's also the potential for a large earthquake on the Hayward Fault that could prohibit access... of fire crews in the area because this facility is planned to be on the eastern side of the fault.

(ANGEL) We're not just talking about an abstract place that we're transporting to. We're transporting it to a place that, referred to by the Fire Chief, is in a potentially disastrous fire zone, right near two earthquake faults.

(DROTOS) Currently, taking these chemicals from the labs up to the current facility is illegal, and it's illegal by CAL EPA laws, federal EPA laws, and against Department of Transportation regulations, and it's very clear. We don't have a lot of litigation dollars, but what we do have is common sense, and we're asking the University to use theirs in choosing a site for this facility.

(ANGEL) Another problem that we have is the process here. If Chevron in Richmond wants to do something for their facility, they need county approval and state approval; it has to comply with federal regulations; they need air district and water district. If UC wants to do it, all they need is the Regents' meeting in Los Angeles to do it.

(AARON GACH) In spite of the University's attempts to convince us that everything was going OK with this site, everything they had to say pointed us in the direction that building a toxic waste facility in the canyon simply is not the right decision.

(DOBBINS) In response to the students, I think it's important. We probably should have and could have done better in that regard. We're making every effort to go to the various commissions, and I'd be happy to go to the City Council. What we intend to do is to be certain that we do something, uh, a building that's significantly a better -- and a process that's significantly better than that presently under way. So it gets to be a question of where would be best to do it.

(ANGEL) I mean, the claim that we're already involved in a process where the city has joint decision-making with the University just flatly is not true. UC is both the proponent, the evaluator, and the decision-maker. What we need is a little democracy in the making of this decision. Most importantly, implement a dramatic and aggressive and a comprehensive pollution prevention and toxics use reduction plan!

waste sign(GACH) Today I'm standing here with David Brower, founder and chairman of the board of Earth Island Institute, and Director of Planning, UC Berkeley, Michael Dobbins, who will receive the over 1,000 signed postcards, and petitions, and protests of the current site, on behalf of the Chancellor's Office.

(BROWER) We're concerned about the whole idea of what the University does with its waste. And with respect to the toxic dump, it's obvious there's only an analysis of the benefits, and not an analysis of the costs. And that is true throughout our economy. This is a world where we're taking more and more dangerous steps without thinking about consequences. We just look at the benefits, and now the big bill, the big cost, is just about destroying the planet. But let's not have a dump upstream in Strawberry Creek from the University and the City of Berkeley. It makes no sense I don't think we need any monuments -- any further monuments to stupidity on this campus.

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