REPORT: US Navy Faces Allegations Of Hiding Dangers Of Radioactive Former Shipyard

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The U.S. Navy is facing accusations from public health advocates that it covered up dangerous levels of radioactive waste pollution at a former Navy shipyard in California, the Guardian reported Sunday.

The 866-acre Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco was once home to a secret Navy research laboratory where animals were injected with strontium-90, a radioactive isotope, according to the report. The isotope was also part of the glow-in-the-dark paint on the site and reportedly could have been washed down drains or off ships used in nuclear testing in the Pacific, per the news report. The 40-acre tract of land where the research laboratory once stood, named “Parcel G,” could be turned over to city officials in 2024 and used for residential development, according to the report.

The Navy indicated elevated strontium-90 contamination in the shipyard in a previous assessment of the site but performed a reassessment which yielded sub-zero levels of the isotope, per the report.

“It is completely erroneous, it is false, it is offensive to me scientifically,” Dr. James Dahlgren, an environmental toxicologist, reacted to the reassessment, implying a sub-zero level of contamination was scientifically impossible, per an NBC news report.

“To have a negative figure on the data for strontium-90 – you can’t have it, it’s impossible; any data that says that, you must reject it if you have any integrity,” said Ray Tompkins, an environmental activist who was part of the cleanup project in 2011, according to the NBC report. (RELATED: Supreme Court Rejects Veterans’ Disability Benefits Appeal Over Cold War Nuclear Accident)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists Hunters Point Naval Shipyard as a “superfund site,” a term for the country’s contaminated sites.

A variety of cancers in a residential area around the shipyard were suspected to be linked to the shipyard’s radioactive contamination, according to the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper. Strontium-90 shows an affinity for the human bone tissue, where it is deposited and, with time, could cause cancer, said Dr. Dahlgren, per NBC.

An environmental impact assessment report by the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program published in May 2019 concluded “no increase of radioactivity above normal background levels has been detected in harbor water during Navy and EPA monitoring of harbors where U.S. naval nuclear-powered ships are based, overhauled, or constructed.” However, information published by the EPA concerning the state of Hunters Shipyard as of the time of this report revealed the presence not only of strontium-90 but also other radioactive elements and heavy metals, all of which the EPA classifies as contaminants of concern (COCs). Additional EPA information showed the site was not ready for its anticipated use given the contamination concerns.

The Navy, represented by the U.S. Department of Justice, is now engaged in 12 lawsuits related to the site, according to the Guardian news report.

The Navy, represented by the U.S. Department of Justice, is now engaged in 12 lawsuits related to the site, according to the Guardian news report.

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