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Clean-up at Alameda Point Seaplane Lagoon

The clean-up at the former Naval Air Station Alameda, now Alameda Point, continues, as we captured video of trucks hauling soil away from the area next to the Seaplane Lagoon. But they also seem to have dug up portions of the sewer system as well, which was used to dump contaminants from various buildings into the lagoon itself. SunCal Companies, an Irvine-based land developer, was selected by the City of Alameda as the master developer for Alameda Point. SunCal has proposed to build just over 4,000 homes on the former base.

An alert reader familiar with the contamination at the former Navy base notified us to the digging and wrote “They are currently digging up the old sewer pipes that would discharge radioactive material out into the carrier bay. They have heightened levels of radioactive material in the sewer lines…Is this a potential health risk for all of us now?” and also

“Every and all chemical was discharged via the terracotta sewer lines tight lined together and discharging into the sea plane lagoon. The nature of the terracotta sewer system is its inability to hold water or liquids without leaking. We have to remember that the base is also land fill and therefore is not well compacted soil and has a tendency to move frequently with tidal forces, fault and general settlement and erosion. the pipe therefore settles, often reverse slopes and more often than not disjoints and leaks. Plating baths for chrome, gold, silver, and nickel were cleaned by emptying the baths into the sea plane lagoon. Arsenic and Cadmium are some of the main ingredients of these baths. This was a daily occurrence from 1940 to 1994.

Uranium was used in the instrument and other facilities for years. the uranium was discharged down these same sewer lines. Uranium was used for several reasons, on of which is confirmed by several living locals was Radium, in the instrumentation. This wonderful chemical often times found in nuclear weapons is now blowing around the island in our lungs and in our bay.”

An Environmental Protection Agency document date October 30, 2006 refers to the Seaplane Lagoon as remediation Site 17 and lists “PCBs, SVOCs, pesticides and radionuclides.” as chemicals of potential concern within the lagoon. “SVOCs” is an abbreviation for Semivolatile organic compounds and “PCB” is an abbreviation for Polychlorinated biphenyls. Radionuclides are atoms with an unstable nucleus which emit radiation such as gamma rays. The site description from that document is excerpted here:

“From the 1940s to 1975, approximately 300 million gallons of untreated industrial wastewater and stormwater that reportedly contained heavy metals, solvents, paints, detergents, acids, caustics, mercury, oil and grease, and Radium 226 (Ra-226) were discharged into a network of storm drains and carried, in part, through storm sewer outfalls directly into [the] Seaplane Lagoon. The outfalls located in the northeast and northwest corners of the lagoon were the primary sources of contamination.”

The document also notes that “Due to the history of discharges from a radioactive waste source to the [Seaplane Lagoon] and the detection of radium in the sediment” that radioactive waste treatment requirements were evaluated by the U.S. Navy. The Navy has opted to dredge the contaminated soil from the lagoon and dispose of it off-site at an appropriate facility.

Here is a video showing an excavator loading soil onto dump trucks beside the Seaplane Lagoon. Piles of excavated sewer pipe, not visible in this clip, lie at the east end of a long line of soil piles covered with plastic, just to the north of them. It’s not immediately clear what the source was for the piles of soil and excavated sewer pipe that we saw on the tarmac beside the lagoon.

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