Navy plans to test Treasure Island for radiation, despite previously claiming there were 'no known public health hazards'

Monday, April 21, 2014 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: Treasure Island, radiation poisoning, San Francisco

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(NaturalNews) Though the nation's sea service once said it wasn't necessary, the Navy now says it will survey all occupied residences on Treasure Island, near San Francisco, for radioactive contamination.

Navy officials announced the reversal recently in response to concerns from residents and a radiological finding on the island in a residential area, the Center for Investigative Reporting said.

The contamination was detected in the ground floor of a housing unit that was not occupied at the time, said Lee Sanders, a Navy spokesman.

Thus far, the sea service has yet to unearth the radioactive source to find out what it is and how dangerous it might be. However, the building's foundation is on schedule to be torn up later this summer.

'They owe us an explanation'

From the Center:

Island residents have been clamoring for years for a more thorough investigation of their housing as "hot" objects have continued to be discovered in and near occupied areas.

The persistent contamination is a legacy of the Navy's secrecy about and mishandling of its nuclear past, which The Center for Investigative Reporting has exposed in a series of stories over the past two years. Plans call for the island to be turned over to the city, which intends to build a second downtown San Francisco there.

Kathryn Lundgren, a longtime resident of Treasure Island, says she regrets being dependent upon official assurances from the military that she did not face any health risks by renting an apartment at the former Navy base. The new information about potential contamination has angered her, the Center reported, and she said the Navy now owes her and other residents a much wider explanation after telling them for years they were safe.

The report said that in 2008, a radiological specialist who was working on a clean-up of the island and who had detected some radiation in an area once believed to be contamination-free informed the California Department of Public Health that residents there could be at risk.

Since then, the department pushed for a more thorough accounting of the island, but to no avail.

"I asked a lot of pointed questions, and I didn't get answers, and these were questions that should have been easily answered," retired state radiation specialist Victor Anderson said in 2012. He died in early 2013.

Still, in the news release detailing the upcoming residential surveying effort, the Navy insisted that there "are currently no known public health hazards." While technically true (remember, the Navy has yet to dig up the source of radiation located in that uninhabited apartment) it is disingenuous at best.

'We don't have a lot of details yet'

For now, the sea service has not figured out how best to test the island's buildings for additional radiation. "Right now, the details of the survey plans are being worked out," Saunders said.

Robert Beck, director of the Treasure Island Development Authority, said that the work is not expected to delay the transfer of parts of the island for new development, which is slated to begin later this year.

"We don't have a lot of details yet, but in terms of the proposal, we believe it is a good idea to conduct the surveys," he told the Center.

In 2013, Department of Health workers said they found radioactive shards buried in residential lawns. One piece of metal was so radioactive that a person holding it for an hour could suffer burns.

Navy officials are planning to hold community meetings to talk about the upcoming radiological surveys with island residents. However, Saunders said the date and time of the meetings have yet to be decided.

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