Health & Safety Column, December 2005 Update,
University Professional and Technical Employees, UPTE-CWA 9119

Toxic Testaments: Radioactive Materials Dumped at RFS?

Many staff at UCB's bucolic-looking Richmond Field Station, as well as people who live and work in South Richmond, have been sickened by the effects of 101 years of chemical and pesticide manufacturing at RFS and the adjacent Zeneca site, as well as intermittent but continuing cleanup. The marsh that adjoins both properties contains toxic hotspots of arsenic, mercury, PCBs, lead, nickel, zinc, and selenium. (Both sites contain other toxic hotspots as well.) A little farther away, the marsh may contain something deadlier: drums of radioactive material from the Lawrence Berkeley Lab that a UC groundskeeping crew is said to have dumped there 40 years ago.

Several things have occurred since the last Update:
}  In October, testing of the marsh revealed the presence of metal five to eight feet below the surface. The metal could be anything, but the Cal/EPA Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), in consultation with other agencies, has hired a company to carefully excavate the soil in stages and test for radioactive material.
}  UCB put its RFS development plans on hold when possible radioactive contamination was disclosed.
}  In late October, the state Department of Health Services began gathering confidential information about workers' experiences and health concerns to assess health risks. For at least another month, DHS staff will be available for face-to-face and phone consultations with RFS staff and others affected by the far deadlier Zeneca/Campus Bay site next door.
  Early in 2006, DHS will ask for public comment on a draft report that contains no identifying information in order to get a better sense of the health effects (including stress) of working at or near these contaminated sites, or living in the same household as someone who does. If you are a former staff member at RFS who took a job on campus because of health issues in Richmond, please contact Rubi Orozco to share your concerns and encourage others to do so:; 510-620-3671. Everyone will benefit.
}  One of the next steps is a meeting with DHS to discuss what might be gained by conducting a health survey. DHS staff will provide technical assistance if we decide a survey will provide information we couldn't get otherwise.

Joan Lichterman, UPTE Health & Safety Director

Neighborhood site:
(Local Projects, Zeneca/Campus Bay Site)
UCB Environmental Site:
Berkeley Daily Planet archives: