Keller Canyon Landfill/Hunters Point Naval Shipyard radiation probe agitates East County residents

By Daniel Borsuk

Some 400 Bay Point and Pittsburg residents exited a community meeting at Ambrose Community Center with more questions than answers Thursday night about stories that radioactive materials had been mistakenly delivered to the Keller Canyon Landfill, located in southeast Pittsburg off of Baily Road. (See related article).

With representatives from county, regional, and state agencies and the Navy in attendance, but no one on hand from TetraTec, the contractor responsible for the removal of nuclear waste material from the former shipyard, residents learned that TetraTec has rejected a request to pick up the bill to pay for an independent investigation into how radioactive material waste entered the landfill on at least two instances.

Those two documented instances where radioactive materials from the shipyard were delivered to the landfill included the January 2014 case when 42 trucks dumped tainted soil with elevated lead.  The case was not considered to be an RCRA hazardous waste situation.  “All contaminated soil was removed from Keller Canyon Landfill,” said    Scott Anderson a Deputy Base Closure Manager of the U.S. Navy Base Realignment. “The Navy wants the community to know that the public is safe.”

In another instance, February 2015, Anderson said the Navy cleaned up at Keller Canyon Landfill after 218 tons of radioactive asphalt that had been delivered to the landfill.   “All the asphalt plus 102 tons of dirt were removed,” he said.

Residents were uncomfortable with the responses that the Navy, and especially Rick King, general manager of Keller Canyon Landfill, offered.  King defended how the landfill properly screens trucks loads with debris from multiple departure points, including Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.

Some speakers like Jeanette Burgess questioned if the landfill operator rigged the monitors at the entrance to allow truck laden with radioactive materials to enter.   “I question your testers,” she said.

“I don’t know where you get your information,” rebutted King, who defended how the Republic Services Co. personnel monitors the testers and that they meet regulations.

Contra Costa County Environmental Health Director Marilyn Underwood said while there is the possibility Republic Services, operator of the Keller Canyon Landfill, might have to redraft an environmental impact report, she said the county is in the midst of searching for an independent consultant to assess the two documented events as well as other potential radioactive deliveries.

Supervisor Federal Glover, whose District 5 includes Keller Canyon Landfill, urged attendees to ask questions.  “Don’t leave here without asking your questions,” he said.  “We’re trying to get an independent investigation. We’re trying to get the information.”

Since TetraTec has refused to pick up the tab to pay for the independent investigation, Dr. Underwood of the county environmental health department said Supervisor Glover is looking into other potential sources to pay for the investigation.

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