Campus Bay and the UC Field Station; Let's All Work Together to Clean It Up

I am the Chief of the Cardiology Division of Kaiser Richmond where I have worked for 24 years, and I am a resident of Richmond. I rollerblade on the Bay Trail between the Richmond Marina and Point Isabel. I tell my patients to exercise there as well. I rollerblade past the Campus Bay property, a beautiful marshland, sadly contaminated by toxic chemicals. I have been a part of the community movement to demand a safe clean-up of this site.

The problem we are confronted with is that 237 acres of bay-front real estate has been polluted by Stauffer Chemical, Astra Zeneca Corporation and California Cap Company with a host of cancer causing chemicals. A fair and logical response would include: None of this has happened. The logical sequence of events has in fact been reversed. No safe clean-up has been completed. Despite this, the city and the developer were well on their way to railroad through a high rise residential development when a local group of community residents and workers, calling themselves BARRD, Bay Area Residents for Responsible Development essentially forced a halt to the project and a re-evaluation. Had this articulate and persistent citizen advocacy group not challenged the redevelopment already in process, Richmond would possibly have a cluster of future cancers and birth defects to deal with. Indeed, there is now suspicion that the poorly monitored clean-up may already have resulted in preventable cancers.

We cannot change the past; only learn from our past mistakes. With what we know today all parties should be able to agree that the first order of business is a safe clean-up of the site. I am calling on all of the involved parties to work together toward that end.

To the developers, I wish to say, do not blame the community for delaying your project. There can be no development without a safe clean-up. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of these toxic sites which need to be cleaned-up. Do the right thing. Become known as the developer who has the expertise and experience needed to join with the community to clean-up and safely develop these toxic sites. You will eventually be financially rewarded for doing the right thing. You will have earned the respect of the community and local government and you will be seen as the model for dealing with these sites in the future.

To the Richmond Redevelopment Agency, I wish to say, your mandate is for healthy development to benefit the Richmond community. Ignoring the health of the public, in the pursuit of narrow financial gain is bad for the city in the long run. Do not let your zeal to bring in revenue, blind you to the greater good of the community. Your statements in the past have shown a total disregard for public health. Make the health of the community your highest priority. Your job is one of service to the community.

To the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, I wish to say, your reputation in the community has suffered greatly from your past statements about the toxic site which were erroneous and highly insensitive to the community. Join with the community in putting public health before narrow business interests. Become a model for the California State Chamber of Commerce by showing how business can make a profit but at the same time be respectful of and give priority to public and environmental health concerns. Right now the California Chamber is opposing legislation by Assemblywoman Loni Hancock which would ensure better oversight of the clean-up process of toxic dumps. Explain to your state colleagues why this is unwise and implore them to put public and environmental health as a top priority in their deliberations.

It is time for all of us to join together for the greater good. No one wants to suffer a cancer or birth defect that could have been prevented. We have all learned a great deal from the process to date. These environmental problems will be more common in the future and developing the skills needed to all work together to clean them up and then to put the land to good use will make the City of Richmond a national leader in earth restoration and redevelopment, something our children and grandchildren will thank us for.

Jeff Ritterman, M. D.
Chief, Cardiology Division
Kaiser Permanente
Richmond, Ca