Saving Richmond's Shoreline- No Housing on a Toxic Waste Dump!

Saving Richmond's Shoreline- No Housing on a Toxic Waste Dump!

By Tarnel Abbott and Deborah Bayer

Where We Stand Now

The Richmond Shoreline Alliance, Citizens for East Shore Parks, Sierra Club, Green Action and the Sunflower Alliance, have filed a lawsuit against the City of Richmond, based on the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and due process violations, to stop the proposed development of housing on top of the contaminated soil of the AstraZeneca (former Stauffer Chemical) site.  The community is advocating for the City to insist on a full clean up before any housing is built. The lawsuit and the development have been discussed in Closed Session twice already, but the public is not privy to how those discussions are going.

What You Can Do

  1. Join the Richmond Shoreline Alliance and get involved.
  2. Contact your city council member or speak during the public comment portion of city council meetings to say you do not want housing on top of the AstraZeneca toxic waste dump.
  3. Join the RPA Environmental Action Team (EAT) by contacting Tarnel Abbott at  [email protected]
  4. Watch this video by Richmond filmmaker Alix Mazuet to learn more.

Background

Richmond's 39 miles of coastline is our greatest natural asset. But over the last century the rush to develop at all costs has led to the despoiling of much of the original bay-shore.  The legacy of heavy industry remains as a wound on the land and in the bodies of the people and wildlife who reside nearby. 

Today, the battle is focused on the AstraZeneca (former Stauffer Chemical) site located on the south shoreline next to the UC Richmond Field Station and a stone’s throw from the San Francisco Bay Trail.  The “Campus Bay Mixed Use Development” proposal for up to 4,000 residential units was rushed through the City planning process in November and December 2020 over the objections of hundreds of community members, and one month before newly elected  progressive  council members  Gayle McLaughlin,  Claudia  Jimenez  and Melvin Willis were sworn in to create, with Eduardo Martinez, a council majority capable of blocking it.

Over 100 years of chemical manufacturing of sulfuric acid, pesticides, and fertilizer and a botched “clean up” executed by Jim Levine in 2002 left 500,000 cubic yards of toxic waste buried on the 86 acre site owned by AstraZeneca. In 1994 the Federal EPA recognized that the site, loaded with poisons such as arsenic, pesticides and volatile organic compounds like TCE, met the criteria of a "superfund site." Oversight for the clean-up is currently under the aegis of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), with Astra-Zeneca responsible for the cost of the clean-up.

In 2005, a group of concerned citizens living and working near the site formed the Richmond Southeast Shoreline Area Community Advisory Group (RSSA/CAG) to serve as the public liaison with the DTSC and monitor future remediations. 

In 2018 the City Council unanimously agreed with the CAG and told the DTSC that it supported the full clean up remedy, including removal of contaminated soil.  A year later City Council Members Demnlus Johnson and Nat Bates convinced fellow council members Tom Butt and Ben Choi to reverse that position in favor of a partial clean-up allowing for quicker development. The Development Agreement with Shopoff  Realty Investment and Hilco Redevelopment was approved by the lame-duck City Council in December 2020. $22 million dollars in “community benefits” was promised for improvements to the Bayview fire station, the Booker T. Anderson Community Center, Richmond Build and the Bay Trail. These are all good benefits, but no amount of money solves the problem of toxic chemicals still in the soil. 

The DTSC proposes to leave 95% of the toxins in place and cover them with a 65 acre concrete cap. Soil Vapor Extraction (SVE) wells will be constructed to vent toxic gases out of the soil and away from the residential buildings. SVE wells, however, are designed to work in soil above the water table. Rising groundwater from sea level rise will affect the stability of the cap and the effectiveness of the wells.

The DTSC claims their proposed clean-up will be good enough for residential housing, but no schools, senior centers, daycare centers, hospitals, or single-family dwellings will be allowed on site. Families with children, pregnant women, elders and other vulnerable people, however, are expected to live there. With no containment below the site, toxins already leaching into adjacent properties, Stege Marsh, Baxter Creek and San Francisco Bay will continue to do so. Residents are continuing to demand AstraZeneca clean up its toxic waste dump!