Jul 28, 2014

Newark Plans Housing For Area Tainted With Industrial Chemicals

In some cases efforts to purge the soil of industrial waste failed numerous times.

Newark Plans Housing For Area Tainted With Industrial Chemicals Newark Plans Housing For Area Tainted With Industrial Chemicals

The City of Newark is planning to place hundreds of homes on a site where industrial chemicals taint the soil, in spite of protests by the Regional Water Quality Control Board.   

The endeavor is called the Trumark Dumbarton Transit-Oriented Development Residential project; it encompasses 21 acres of land at 8400 Enterprise Drive. This project would build 217 single-family homes and place businesses near area that city officials say is fine.

A letter from the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board Toxics Cleanup Division to the City of Newark says otherwise. 

On September 27, 2013 Bruce H. Wolfe, executive officer for at the SF Bay Regional Water Board wrote to Terrence Grindall, Newark employee managing the environmental review of this project. The letter reads:

“Soil and groundwater pollution exists in the Dumbarton TOD area and poses a threat to human health and safety under a variety of scenarios, including residential receptors, commercial workers, construction works, and utility workers, etc. The pollution results from decades of processing and manufacturing chemicals and hazardous waste facility operations… The Site Cleanup Requirements Orders adopted soil and groundwater cleanup standards to support continued industrial/ commercial land, and not residential use.”

This letter was included in the city’s General Plan Tune Up Final Environmental Impact Report dated October 24, 2013. That 1,040-page document outlines the ways that land can be used within city borders. In spite of this letter that outlines potential problems with that land, the housing project is underway.

An Environmental Impact Report prepared for that project said that it will have significant impacts on air quality, biological resources, and expose workers to chemicals that saturate the soil and ground water in the area, according to the Draft Supplemental Impact Report released by the City of Newark in December 2013.

While the report says that the safety of the workers and the general public can be mitigated, information from the California Water Resources Control Board indicates that may not be as easy as projected. Five sites within 1000 feet of 8400 Enterprise Drive contain the detritus of industrial-grade endeavors.

Efforts to clean the land at 8333 Enterprise Drive have been ongoing since 1993, according to California Department of Toxic Substances Control records. Ironically, the companies that conducted business there pride themselves in making products that cleanse things. 

That land used to be owned by Purex, the laundry company. It operated a subsidiary called Baron Blakeslee, an industrial cleaning equipment company that spewed industrial waste into the soil, according to public records. Later that land was transferred to Honeywell International, which makes “high-purity, high-quality performance chemicals and materials,” according to its website. This company is currently liable for the efforts to clean up that land.

It is unclear whether the chemical leaks were overlooked, or undiscovered until it was too late.

What is known is that some of the chemicals leaking into the soil are problematic to remove and dangerous to human health. They included  tetrachlorothene, which is used for dry-cleaning fabrics and degreasing metal. It can be damaging to kidneys and the respiratory system. Another one was Freon 113, which degrades the Earth’s ozone layer. Yet another is xylene.

Alameda County officials discovered that chemicals were contaminating the soil in April 1993. Multiple attempts to remove chemicals from the soil there have failed. 

Another project to put 27 homes at 8375 Enterprise Drive is planned.

The public has the opportunity to comment on the  Draft Environmental Impact Report prepared for this project until 5 p.m. on February 7, 2014.   

Want to know about the other areas in Newark where companies have left their mark on the soil? 

Patch compiled information about all the areas in town that have been contaminated by dubious chemicals.  Take a look at the map embedded in this post to see where they are.  Click on the dots to see the status of cleanup efforts there. 

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