Nuclear Radiation On San Francisco’s Treasure Island: We Don’t Need To Know, Apparently

Wolf Richter's picture

Wolf Richter

“That amount of radium found to date cannot be explained by gauges, deck markers, and decontamination activities,” wrote Stephen Woods, an environmental cleanup manager at the California Department of Public Health, about Treasure Island, the rectilinear speck of land in the San Francisco Bay two-and-a-half miles of white caps from our kitchen window. It summed up decades of US Government efforts to bury nuclear sins under layers of ignorance.

The US Government created Treasure Island from fill in 1937 and connected it to Yerba Buena Island, the overgrown rock in the middle of the Bay Bridge. After the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939/1940, it became a naval base. In 1993, the Navy started the process of cleaning up the island so that the City of San Francisco, which had agreed to buy it for $105 million, would accept it—pending approval by state health officials.



Meanwhile, 2,800 people, oblivious to what was buried on the island, moved into the housing units they rented from the Navy. Developers are scheduled to break ground on a high-rise complex next year. The population could eventually swell to 20,000. Alas, in an excellent piece of reporting, The Bay Citizen, a nonprofit news organization, reveals a homegrown nuclear debacle kept out of public view by decades of deception.

After World War II, Treasure Island became a training center for nuclear decontamination. In a 2006 report on the cleanup, the Navy concluded that the locations of the USS Pandemonium, the mockup of a ship used for decontamination training, were free from radiation, and that a 170-acre area was ready to be transferred to San Francisco. But contractors hired by the Navy kept running into radioactivity of such magnitude that one worker was exposed to the maximum radiation dosage allowed under Nuclear Regulatory Commission guidelines and was sent off the job.

In 2007, the Navy tried to mollify resident with a newsletter that stated that lingering radiation from the discarded glow-in-the-dark buttons handed out during the Golden Gate International Exposition was no worse than that of a smoke detector.

But on December 17, 2010, state public health official Peter Sapunor wrote in an email that “Navy contractors had dug up and hauled off 16,000 cubic yards of contaminated dirt, some with radiation levels 400 times the Environmental Protection Agency’s human exposure limits for topsoil.” And worse, radioactive material in the soil around those excavations exposed children at a Boys & Girls Club and a child development center to contaminated dust.

The Navy’s report wasn’t forthcoming on other issues, according to The Bay Citizen:

For one, the Navy had failed to fully detail what had happened to the remains of the USS Pandemonium, used to train sailors in “Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Warfare,” according to a July 2011 health department review. The Navy contractor recently dumped debris from the two training sites into an undisclosed landfill, the report alleged, then declared the training site clean without testing for radiation. “The Navy has not responded to requests for the location of the landfill,” the review added.

In early 2011, Stephen Woods lambasted the Navy for still using the 2006 report to support its claims that parts of the island had been cleaned: “The large volume of radiological contaminated material, high number of radioactive commodities (individual items or sources), and high levels of radioactive contamination … have raised concerns with CDPH regarding the nature and extent of the radiological contamination present at Treasure Island.”

In June 2011, CDPH issued a notice of violation against the Navy’s chief cleanup contractor “for repeatedly digging, piling, spreading and transporting dirt from sites contaminated with toxic chemicals” without testing them for radioactivity, “potentially spreading radiation beyond its original location.”

Finally, these and many other actions and pressures induced the Navy to hire civilian researchers and do a new historical analysis. The Bay Citizen “obtained” a draft report, dated August 6, 2012. Turns out, Treasure Island was “ground zero for repairing, scrapping, recycling and incinerating material from ships that might have absorbed radiation from atomic bomb tests in the Pacific.”

After many decades of suppressing this information, it is now finally seeping to the surface, thanks to the Navy’s reluctant glasnost, worried state health officials, and investigative reporters at the The Bay Citizen. A bit late for the families who’ve lived on the island for years, and for some of the clean-up workers who weren’t always aware of what exactly they were dealing with.

Here is a harbinger of things to come: California Sales Tax Revenues Nosedive By 33.5%, by hard-hitting Chriss Street.

And this came Friday evening..... Moody’s Warns Of Mass California Municipal Bankruptcies, also by Chriss Street.

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Missiondweller's picture

Not as close as I am.

The views from T-Island are fantastic but I wouldn't want to live there long term.

ZeroAvatar's picture

With his Faceplant losses, he probably looks forward to death, anyway.

GMadScientist's picture

"Finally seeping to the surface..."

Evocative prose, but residents have known about that since before the Loma Prieta earthquake.

Freddie's picture

Hopefully this radioactive sludge is seeping into Pelosi's vineyards.   Someone should pump this radioactive shit in her house too plus her old vag. 

mendolover's picture

Oh Freddie!  She's just a victim of the side effects of all those untested meds she's been on all these years.  And also don't forget how proud all her constituents are of her!  hahahaha.  Oh it's not funny is it?

GMadScientist's picture

You're thinking of Tennessee.

Arnold Ziffel's picture
Don't Buy: These 7 Cities Are Renters' Markets

1. San Diego, California

4. Los Angeles, California

6. San Francisco, California

7. San Jose, California


It's a renters market for most of Cali right now.

slewie the pi-rat's picture

the mormons want to take away our rent control   L0L!!!

GMadScientist's picture

You may as well include the entire US.

tenpanhandle's picture

Aw, whats there to be afraid of?  Everyone knows two heads are better than one.

mkhs's picture

Females might disagree.

ZeroAvatar's picture

Wise guy, eh?  Hey Larry!  Hey Moe!  Wise guy!  Nyuh, Nyuh, Nyuh!

vato poco's picture

"Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck", ya barbarian.

Row Well Number 41's picture

Take away the radioactive contamination and I still would not live there.  That island is tsunami meat in an area known for earthquakes.


knotjammin2's picture

The largest recorded tsunami was a wave 1720 feet tall in Lituya Bay, Alaska

I'm just saying.  Also with all the siesmic activity in the Bay area, some of this could have perked up from it's original burial depth.

ZeroAvatar's picture

You can say THAT again.  Aumen, brother.

malek's picture

That island is inside the SF Bay.
The worst case tsunami wave inside the bay is estimated to be 4 feet high.

knukles's picture

1.  Famous last words
2.  Landfill and earthquakes means disappearing....

MsCreant's picture

No, no, no. Rehypothecated and vaporized! Get the MF Banksters in there for Christ's sake. They know how to make it all disappear.

Missiondweller's picture

And they want to build 30 floor buildings on that.

Chuck Walla's picture

Just great. I sat there for three weeks waiting to go Nam. Nice. Kill me dead even if I survive, my pals, the government. And these Bozos are supposed to run healthcare?



ThirdWorldDude's picture

Slightly OT, but with a curious connection - last night I happened to watch a 2008 documentary called "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" (, which shows how good ole USofA didn't only import Nazis within "Op. Paperclip", but their ideas as well. 

The film's theme is revealing how the scientific community is blindly following Darwinistic dogma and vigorously punishing prominent scientists who dare to suggest Intelligent Design as a way in which life originated on Earth. However, a deeper view shows Darwinists to wholeheartedly cherish Eugenicism as an important feature of their "religion", as originally introduced in "Origin of Species". 

Connecting the dots with Wolf's article leads straight through the "Georgia Guidestones" and anyone with 5 healthy braincells can see why 99% of the scientific community today is so ignorant to Treasure Island's & Fuku's consequences, uranium and phosphorus bombs, GMO foods, fluoride, chemtrails...


They're no Bozos, Chuck. In the currently ruling Fifth Reich's newspeak, healthcare/medicare is but an euphemism for creating the Ubermenschen, it's in their Agenda (21).

bankruptcylawyer's picture

alex jones is not welcome on zerohedge.

mendolover's picture

Maybe he would be if you could tell when he is discussing real true events and when he makes the shit up off the top of his head.  Anyone out there know him during his childhood?  Just wondering.  All you seven down arrows need to look into him a little more.

ThirdWorldDude's picture

Neither are morally bankrupt lawyers.

Freddie's picture

BS.  They say that if Seattle and all the sounds up there would be mega death traps in a bad earthquake.  Water and mud would kill everyone in the area in a bad quake.   We have no idea what would happen in San Fran bay if there was a baad earthquake.

slewie the pi-rat's picture

oh yes we do freddie!

it is called "liquification of landfills in water"

but that "road" is the western anchor of the bayBridge i think;   it is hooked to a real island unless that is another of those big turtles...

malek's picture

Wow, seems lot of people have to get their stories straight here.

I talked about tsunamis inside the SF Bay.
You are talking about earthquakes.
Yes, tsunamis are caused by earthquakes, but the largest conceivable SF Bay tsunami cannot be caused by an earthquake in the SF Bay (like San Andreas or Hayward fault), but by something occurring elsewhere in the Pacific.

Liquification means structures built on such grounds may experience much stronger shaking than those founded on solid rock, in the same earthquake.
It doesn't mean the structure will sink into the ground.

Debt-Is-Not-Money's picture

Liquifaction = quicksand (or "quickdirt?)

malek's picture


Read some scientific reports. Or point us to examples where a building or something sank into the ground during an earthquake.

TrainWreck1's picture

That much radiation could turn SF into a city full of deranged zombie-like freaks!


hannah's picture

ever actually been around the rifraf shit people that live on treasure island? the absolute scum of the earth...they ARE ALREADY FACE EATING ZOMBIES...

ZeroAvatar's picture

Honestly, all this time I thought Treasure Island was an amusement park.

stacking12321's picture

it might be, depending on what amuses you.

philipat's picture

"That much radiation could turn SF into a city full of deranged zombie-like freaks!"

 And Pelosi, no wait.............

slewie the pi-rat's picture

now we know what happened to oj growing up...

...and barryBonds was spidey in a SFGiants uniform and he had to fib now and then to protect his superhero identity from the Feds...

...was dwightClark on treasureIslandDust when he made theCatch?  that place is only a few dozen two-minute-marches from candlestick isn't it? 

neither the doe-eyed peoplsi nor the difi nor the babs had any knowledge whatsofukingevah;  honest

nor their business & development husbands

i just talked to washington & nancy&babs are already writing the emergency superSite legislation and difi is getting people lined up to give the dump back to the indians for a casino when they get it leaded in

many here are already long lead (Pb) but this?   for $4 bucks a pound we'll sell our ballast, ok? 

meanwhile they are doing a new "cable" on the bayBridge there which is an engineering project right up there with going to the moon, alice

everything will be fine of course, but boaters are warned not to go under there till like 2035 or something

we dont want the bridge falling on any vessels and then they sink into the BART tube under there?  right? 

40 years ago an engineer assured me that they would never, ever finish building the SF airport

now, they got the bridge annuitized too, looks like...

union town too!  well, historically...

Ms. Erable's picture

And how would one discern the difference from 'before' to 'after'?

El Oregonian's picture

How screwed up is this. We don't even know which clean-up company was mentioned in the story so we don't even know which landfill? Great... Glad I left the area many, many moons ago...

old naughty's picture

Before afterlife?

End all nuclear; or someone will end it for us.

GMadScientist's picture

Where's the shadow government when you really need it anyway?

malikai's picture

Actually, zombie-freaks would probably be an improvement. They might actually clean up the place.

Snidley Whipsnae's picture

malikai... It's really very simple. When the giant octpus attacked the Golden Gate Bridge the navy (and army and cops and even civilians) retaliated with nukes. Scratch one giant octpus...

See it all here compliments of Ray Harryhausen:

"It Came From Beneath the Sea"...

Of course certain economists would rather 'It' came from outer space... to help out this sinking economy... get it? sinking... yuk yuk

GMadScientist's picture


...that only eat organic, locally-sourced tofu (and that one face...but, in my defense, I was totally baked).


jeff montanye's picture

you guys are so funny, what with the culture clash and all.  the they're gay and get high on thc and x and we like girls and booze.  wow!  good stuff.  keeps the two party system going strong. 

and, on a lesser note, rolling waves of municipal bankruptcy out of the state of the future, now glowing a little more each day.


shovelhead's picture

Zombies are gay?


I always thought they only wanted to eat brainnnnzzzz.


GMadScientist's picture

You know...we have girls and booze in the city too.

Does the Folsom Street Fair help or hurt the one-party dog and pony?