Feds to Check Asbestos at Hunters Point

After months of complaints by local residents, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has agreed to examine efforts to limit asbestos-contaminated dust from a construction site in Hunters Point, a review, says the San Francisco Chronicle, which could lead to stronger pollution controls at the former Navy shipyard.

Residents have stressed that developer Lennar Corporation isn’t doing enough to protect their health during the process of building more than 1,500 homes on the 66-acre site that was once the location of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. Shipyards, in general, are infamous for leaving behind large amounts of asbestos.

According to the article, the agency will investigate everything that has been done at the site to protect residents, including methods used to quell dust and to measure levels of asbestos in the air. If officials determine that more should be done, they will make that recommendation to San Francisco authorities.

Neighbors are most concerned about any efforts taken to limit flyaway asbestos. Many have reported increased nose bleeds, asthma attacks, and chest pains, symptoms which they believe may be connected to the asbestos left at the Hunters Point site, stirred up during construction. Those who appeared at a recent public meeting also noted that they don’t trust the current air quality tests, which are administered by Lennar.

San Francisco Public Health Director Dr. Mitch Katz has been adamant that residents are safe. “City residents requested an independent review. We believe we’ve been proactive with health protection. But we’re open to learning, and we thought (inviting federal officials to the site) will build community trust,” said Rajiv Bhatia, the city’s director of environmental health.

The article notes that the 500-acre former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard was placed in the nation’s Superfund cleanup program in 1989. Over the years, parts of the shipyard were cleaned of chemical contamination including solvents, PCBs and radioactive materials. More clean-up is still needed in some areas.

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