Excavation of Toxic Material Begins at Site in Richmond

Excavation of Toxic Material Begins at Site in Richmond

pennants made by Debbie Bayer, photo credit: Jin Zhu

The following is an update of the proposed cleanup of the HRP Campus Bay Development site, also known as AstraZeneca and formerly Stauffer Chemical. Those latter two company names reflect only a few of the recent owners of the 86-acre site on Richmond’s South shoreline.  The legacy of 100 plus years of chemical manufacturing remains buried:  550,000 cubic yards of mixed toxic material including VOCs (volatile organic compounds), heavy metals, TCEs (trichloroethylene), arsenic, etc. Contrary to community pleas for a comprehensive cleanup to remove of all the contaminants, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) approved a work plan to remove less than 2% of the toxics, cap the area, then build 4,000 housing units above the toxic sludge. Uncontained on the sides or the bottom, the toxic plumes will continue to leak into surrounding properties, including Stege Marsh and the San Francisco Bay. Sea level rise will force off-gassing toxics inland and upwards putting future residents at risk. The excavation work, paid for by Zeneca (AstraZenca) and carried out by Terraphase will begin soon and will continue during September and October. This work will take place on Lot 3, near South 49th St., and will likely be visible (and audible) from the Bay Trail. Only 200 notices were sent out by DTSC, mostly to nearby businesses, in English only. Nearby neighborhood residents were not informed. Real time air monitoring is not included in their plan. 

During same time frame, the most recent property owner, HRP Campus Bay, LLC, will start to tear down the old “Campus Bay” buildings (designed by Tom Butt) on Lot 1, visible from Meade Street. Demolition of the greenhouses where pesticides and fungicides were tested are also cause for special concern.

The DTSC should be held to task, once again, for failure to provide adequate warning to the public and failing their mission: to protect the environment and public health.

If members of the public see any dust, or smell odors from either worksite, they should call the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s 24-hour hotline at (800) 334-6367; the worksite address is 1417 South 47th St., Richmond. Three calls will trigger an investigation.

On August 30, people from 27 community-based organizations from throughout the State traveled to Sacramento to demand that DTSC and its parent agency, California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal EPA) do their job to protect our health and safety. Though the particulars vary, the cry for environmental justice rings loud and clear. Everyone deserves clean air, clean water, and clean soil. Cal EPA Director Jared Blumenfeld and DTSC Director Meredith Williams responded to our pleas with empty platitudes of care and concern, but as past events in Richmond have shown, no change is likely to occur and DTSC still appears to align with toxic polluters, corporate developers, and monied lobbyists.  

For information about the local struggle see: https://www.richmondshorelinealliance.org

Tarnel Abbott speaking at event on August 30, 2021, photo credit: Jin Zhu