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State claims no dangerous radiation found in Hunters Point neighborhood

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Inspection of developed area allegedly turns up nothing dangerous, but further investigation is required

Hunters Point.
Photo by Chris Roberts

San Francisco’s Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure (OCII) says that a state inspection has ruled a key section of the Hunters Point Shipyard “free from any radiological health and safety hazards.”

According to a statement from OCII spokesperson Max Barnes, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) cleared the area (known as Parcel A-1) of “any anomalies that would be detrimental to one’s health condition.”

Barnes continues:

CDPH conducted the survey at the request of the City and regulatory agencies following concerns of data falsification elsewhere on the shipyard and questions about Parcel A. CDPH has regulatory authorities and recognized expertise in the area of radiological health and conducted its survey under a July 3, 2018 work plan prepared by its Radiological Health Branch.

It involved a walkover scan (“hand scans”) and towed array scan of the [publicly] accessible areas (uncovered areas, landscaped areas, streets and sidewalks) as well as private common areas between homes.

The final CDPH report, which was issued Tuesday, says that, during inspections conducted between July and December in 2018, the “radiation survey detected 110 anomalies with 64 from the walkover survey and 46 from the towed array system.”

However, 109 of those turned out to be the element potassium 40, which the report claims isn’t a worry.

While potassium 40 is a radioactive isotope, the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility (a non-profit based in Quebec) says that it’s actually the same type of potassium found in common bananas.

“The [human] body already has a lot of [...] K-40, which is unavoidable,” CCNR co-founder Gordon Edwards writes. “New ‘natural’ potassium ingested is balanced by eliminating a comparable amount [...] to maintain the homeostasis of the body.”

As for finding number 110, “The one exception was a Navy radium-containing deck marker” discovered in September.

However, the CDPH report notes that the object was not radioactive enough to be dangerous—and that “no radiological health and safety hazards to the residents of Parcel A-1 were observed.”

Green parcels are Navy assets. Gray areas are in development.

Parcel A-1 comprises an area bordered by Fisher Avenue, Spear Avenue, Crisper Avenue, and Lockwood Street. It’s the largest parcel that has been turned over to the city for development.

While the clean bill of health for A-1 is a relief, Curbed SF reported in July that the inspection did not include the homes of people already living on Parcel A-1, as the state determined that “surveying residential units is beyond the scope of this survey.”

OCII also says that the survey found nothing amiss in nearby Parcel A-2, which is presently uninhabited.

Note that these results have no bearing on ongoing tests and investigations of Hunters Point parcels still under Navy control and the related fraud scandal.