Newark Plans Housing For Area Tainted With Industrial Chemicals

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

The red dots indicate where chemicals contaminated soil in Newark, California.
The red dots indicate where chemicals contaminated soil in Newark, California.

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. 

James Nelson January 20, 2014 at 01:31 PM
Nadja Adolf January 20, 2014 at 02:02 PM
Rob, both you and Frank have committed the "bare assertion fallacy" or ipse dixit. You I assume have good motives at heart, but don't have a full understanding of the issues; please go read the EIR and responses to have a clearer understanding of the problems involved. Even if one doesn't care about the environment, one should be concerned about the city volunteering to take on what could be a huge liability case in the future. Frank, with all due respect, I am proudly to the Right of Attila the Hun and seem to care more about the environment than most warm, fuzzy-hearted, liberals. And I don't turn my neighbors in for burning wood because I am not some sort of Communist or Fascist. (Although I will cheerfully report the dumping of toxic or inflammable substances in the storm drains. Some people not only don't understand that gasoline is toxic, they have no idea that pouring a five gallon can of gas too use in the lawnmower down the storm drain is also an explosion hazard.)
Frank Mockery January 20, 2014 at 04:13 PM
A former employer of mine occupies a Superfund cleanup site (DDT & asbestos) & I unlike most of the other commenters have first hand knowledge of the challenges involved in remediation efforts. Disturbing contaminated soil creates toxic dust which becomes an airborne hazard for cleanup workers & drifts to adjacent property. In addition in an area so close to the bay where the water table is so shallow it's likely that the groundwater is contaminated too,both under this site & adjacent property as well. Capping the contaminated soil wouldn't pass muster for a residential development & removing & disposing of the soil is extremely costly. Depending upon the cocktail of contaminates present few if any disposal sites will accept such soil,it must be transported in sealed containers & will cost hundreds of dollars per cubic yard. We're talking millions & millions of dollars to cleanup a site most likely worth a fraction of the cleanup expense. On the other hand no matter what the ultimate use or this site is, Honeywell must be forced to cleanup this site regardless of the incredible expense. These sites are a gold mine for lawyers & remediation engineers & the city apparently doesn't have a clue when it comes to a matter of this magnitude. They need to consult with both the state & federal EPA,a law firm well-versed in these matters & Honeywell & their attorneys before proceeding with any future plans for this or any other contaminated site. To do otherwise would be as foolish as it would be reckless,potentially leaving their constituents liable for damages from future litigation ling after they've left office. Then again foolish & reckless is an apt description of not only our present City Council,but also the majority of the actions that they take. Note: Following your dog around with a plastic bag in no way makes you an expert on toxic cleanup,but does indicate a certain aptitude for remediation nonetheless ! Vescere bracis meis !!!
Rob Sorensen January 20, 2014 at 05:30 PM
Thanks Nadja for being the voice of reason. My brief response was to an idea that the concerns are somehow not know. Thus, there's a normal process, given the EIR, which we are ALL sensitive to, which must be played out. The fact that there is pursuit of development goals should be a clue that "the towel has not been thrown in. There's a process. All the fears and supposition is just that.
Rob Sorensen January 20, 2014 at 05:57 PM
Attila was a warm fuzzy guy and clearly misunderstood.


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