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Superfund Site Cleanup to Begin

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

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Federal environmental authorities have reached agreements with several public and private entities, including PPG Architectural Finishes and the City of San Francisco, to begin cleanup of an inter-tidal water channel in California.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the settlements related to the Yosemite Slough on Monday (Dec. 5). The site contains high levels of contaminants, especially Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) and lead, which are hazardous for the plants and animals that live in the slough, according to the EPA. People can also be at risk if they consume contaminated fish and shellfish.

Yosemite Slough
California Department of Parks and Recreation

Past industrial and commercial activities have contaminated the Yosemite Slough in San Francisco.

The Yosemite Slough site is approximately 1,600 feet long and 200 feet wide and located between Hunters Point Naval Shipyard to the north and Candlestick Point State Recreational Area to the south. Depending on the tide, the site is exposed as a mudflat or covered with 3 to 6 feet of bay water, EPA said.

Sources of the contaminated sediment at the site include past industrial and commercial activities, fill material placed along the slough, and urban stormwater runoff.  

Terms of the Settlement

As a part of the settlement, the public and private entities will initiate nine technical studies as a basis for the design and implementation of the Yosemite Slough cleanup plan.

The site’s cleanup will eventually require removal of the top layer of the most contaminated mud from the slough and the installation of a protective barrier, or cap, of clean sand and mud that will prevent future harmful impacts to San Francisco Bay, EPA explains.

Yosemite Slough once consisted of natural marine habitat including wetlands, marshlands, and tidal mudflats. Between 1900 and 1970, the slough was significantly narrowed by placement of fill soils and debris in wetlands and along the original edges of the slough. By the 1950s, the area surrounding the slough was characterized by mixed residential, commercial and industrial use.

The Parties

The 12 private parties that have agreed to the settlement are Ashland Inc.; Coca-Cola North America; Exxon Mobil Corporation; InterState Oil Company; NL Industries Inc.; Occidental Chemical Corporation; Pennzoil-Quaker State Company; PPG Architectural Finishes Inc.; Redwood Oil Company Inc.; Textron Inc.; Tyco Electronic Corporation; and Univer USA Inc.

In a statement, a spokesperson from PPG Architectural Finishes said the company is “pleased to see positive progress in resolving this issue for which it assumed responsibility when it acquired AkzoNobel’s North American decorative coatings business in 2013.”

SF bay
© iStock.com / Bill Dally

San Francisco Bay and its tributary streams, situated in an urban area with more than 7 million people, provide crucial fish and wildlife habitat at the heart of the larger Bay-Delta Estuary, according to the EPA.

The four public entities involved in a separate settlement are the City and County of San Francisco, the California Department of Parks and Recreation, the California State Lands Commission, and the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency.

The settlement documents were not immediately available for review Tuesday (Dec. 6). The EPA estimates that cleanup will begin in the summer of 2018.

Significant Bay

San Francisco Bay is a designated "estuary of national significance" under the Clean Water Act. The bay and its tributary streams, situated in an urban area with more than 7 million people, provide crucial fish and wildlife habitat at the heart of the larger Bay-Delta Estuary.

The bay’s users and nearby residents are all potentially affected by threats to its ecological health, including legacy pollutants like mercury and PCBs, polluted stormwater, and the challenges of drought and climate change, according to the agency.

EPA is using the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, also known as Superfund, to guide the cleanup of the Yosemite Slough site. During 2012 and early 2013, EPA developed a cleanup plan, which was released for a formal public comment period in August 2013 and finalized in an Action Memorandum in March 2014.

EPA’s efforts at Yosemite Slough are part of the agency’s commitment to restoring the health of San Francisco Bay.

More information is available here.

   

Tagged categories: Clean Water Act; Cleanup; Environmental Protection; EPA; Funding; Government

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