This recording, made twenty-five years ago, is of historic importance since it demarcates the first time that the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory was formally called to task by the City of Berkeley over its inadequate operational standards and its failed environmental management. It must be noted that the City of Berkeley has had almost no direct oversight to any of the operations at the federal laboratory. The regulatory oversight to the radiation laboratory has been entrusted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Yet it was U.S. EPA's efforts to isolate themselves as well as "their client" (LBNL) away from public scrutiny and process was also called into question by the community.
The video recording provides a glimpse to how LBNL has been allowed to operate in relative regulatory isolation. Historically, this regulatory scheme was absolutely effective in obscuring LBNL’s very real and dangerous environmental impacts on the surrounding residential community and also shielded the lab and US EPA from any local accountability.
(Note: Video recording archived)
Perhaps even more significant, this video recording memorializes the huge effort begun by the Berkeley community in making a public demand for accountability of the radiation laboratory’s activities, both current and past. LBNL’s inability to publicly acknowledge any concerns, or to admit any guilt or wrongdoing and their callous dismissal of the community left the lab and U.S. EPA with only one public option. This pathway of denial included vilifying all those of the Berkeley community who stood up to the federal facility demanding environmental accountability to their operations.
Further, LBNL’s response to questions over its environmental stewardship was to maneuver both California’s State Water Resource Board and the Department of Toxic Substance Control into agreeing to declare the LBNL hillside site as a no cleanup or “containment zone”. Simply stated, California allowed the federal government (DOE & LBNL) to (harm) pollute state property without any financial liability. This State of California-sanctioned regulatory dismemberment of City of Berkeley’s environmental protections has allowed the Lawrence Berkeley Lab to avoid anyfurther disclosure of the radiation facility’s historic contamination, while both limiting future cleanup requirements and investigations.
The concerns raised by the Berkeley community regarding the laboratory’s tritium emissions were shared by many others. A quarter century ago, John Gofman, Professor Emeritus of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California at Berkeley said, “We need to remember that the work of the Lawrence Lab and laboratories like that throughout the country, is for service to the public. And therefore service to the public should be done with the utmost concern for the public’s safety and health.” Unfortunately this message was ignored by many of the self-serving bureaucrats of the LBNL and lab regulators of that time.
This video is dedicated to the memory of Gene Bernardi who was instrumental in organizing the1996 Berkeley City Council presentation. She worked tirelessly for more than a quarter of a century advocating for many environmental and social justice issues, including a special focus on the need for responsible stewardship at LBNL.
For more information see: Lawrence Berkley Laboratory