Radioactive Contamination On San Francisco’s Treasure Island: A Tale Of US Government Obfuscation & Willful Ignorance

Wolf Richter's picture

Wolf Richter

On Treasure Island, a rectilinear manmade speck of land and former naval base in the San Francisco Bay, there is a spot the Navy calls “USS Pandemonium Site I,” occupied by low-slung housing units rented out as apartments. Potential contaminants: Radium-226 and cesium-137. “Likelihood of contamination,” according to the Navy, was “unlikely.”

However, in April 2011, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) did some tests along the streets around the USS Pandemonium site and found 93 spots where radiation levels weren’t 10% or 20% or 50% above the normal exposure level, but up to 2.7 times the normal exposure level. In one area, radiation was 4,380% above the annual dose limit and was considered “unsafe.”

The limit assumes exposure of 24 hours per day, for one year. So walking by is not a problem. But people live there! A high-rise development is planned next to it, pushing the island’s population from 2,800 to 20,000 residents. And now new evidence has emerged of the Navy’s still ongoing campaign of obfuscation. They just don’t want us to know! And apparently, they don’t want to know themselves!

For decades, the US Government has buried its nuclear sins on Treasure Island under layers of institutional ignorance. Thanks to The Bay Citizen, which obtained a Navy draft report dated August 6, 2012, we now know that the island was “ground zero” for “repairing, scrapping, recycling, and incinerating material” from ships that had been exposed to nuclear explosions in the Pacific during the early phases of the Cold War and had been contaminated up to the antennas with radiation. And there was the USS Pandemonium, the mockup of a ship doused with radioactive materials to train sailors in cleaning contaminated ships. For surreal details and the games the US Government was playing, read..... Nuclear Radiation On San Francisco’s Treasure Island: We Don’t Need To Know, Apparently (with satellite picture).

Treasure Island as seen from our windows two-and-a-half miles away: a flat, low-lying, non-descript piece of real estate. Beyond the haze: Berkley and Oakland.

The latest revelations by The Bay Citizen are based on emails that show that regulators of the Department of Public Health have been hounding the Navy for information since 2010 when cleanup crews kept running into radiation that wasn’t supposed to be there or that the Navy said it had already cleaned up—laying bare its refusal not only to acknowledge existing radiation but also to properly inspect the whole island. When confronted with evidence, the Navy didn’t want to receive it in writing to keep it out of the official record. And it showed a no-holds-barred effort to shop for the most lenient regulator.

Ultimate purpose: shuffle the contaminated island off to the city of San Francisco, which had agreed to buy it for $105 million, so that the city would have to clean it up. But the deal required a nod from the CDPH—which kept running into more radiation every time it blinked (interactive map).

To get it off its back, the Navy contended that the CDPH didn’t have the authority to regulate the cleanup of radioactive sites. When that didn’t work, it tried to gag the CDPH. On May 15, Navy cleanup manager David Clark told the Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) in an email that officials from the CDPH should express their “concerns only verbally,” not in writing; the Navy wanted to avoid “another letter” to prevent written documents from entering the case.

Navy environmental coordinator James Sullivan was even clearer: “If you receive the memo, don’t send it to us,” he emailed to an official at the DTSC. Instead, under a pretext, send it back to the CDPH “for revisions” to prevent memos that the DTSC had “not endorsed” from reaching the Navy. The reason: The DTSC “sees its role as helping move properties off the Navy’s books,” explains Saul Bloom, Executive Director of Arc Ecology, while the CDPH “sees its role as protecting public health.”

But the Navy’s strategy didn’t work. Larry Morgan, senior physicist at the CDPH, sent memos anyway, lashing out against the Navy’s inadequate cleanup methods and its obfuscation. He pointed out that there had been several high-radiation shipments and “about a thousand” intermodal containers of “radium waste” hauled off the island. He lamented that the Navy’s explanations for the radioactive waste had been inadequate, that it tested 1,500 soil samples for chemical waste, but not for radioactivity. He exhorted the Navy to expand its testing for radioactivity, and to include cesium-137, a byproduct in nuclear blasts. And thus, his concerns became part of the official record.

And still, DTSC officials, ever eager to help the Navy unload its contaminated properties, claimed in a conference call that Treasure Island was “safe for human habitation.”

A bit further north, but in a different world, a surprising corruption scandal has bubbled up—surprising because it’s in rural Northern California, the bastion where Republicans go to escape the Democrats’ nanny state—and it’s hounding private businesses and farmers alike, by hard-hitting Chriss Street.

Speaking of corruption: a sordid bribery and kickback scandal at the Reserve Bank of Australia appeared to be neatly contained to two subsidiaries, until now. Read.... Central Banks, The Veil Of Secrecy, A Hotbed of Corruption, And Now Another One Got Ensnared.

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mick_richfield's picture

My future's so bright, it glows in the dark.

americanspirit's picture

When I was a boy living in Germany 1950-53 the woods were where we played every day, and they were full of some of the most interesting ( to a 10 year old) stuff. All kinds of weapons, bunkers that still had - uh - occupants, crashed aircraft, live grenades. Cool stuff! Farmers plowing their fields were always hitting old munitions. Once we found a skull with its Nazi helmet still strapped on. It had a bullet hole between the eyes. We took it to school to gross out the girls, and got a heavy lecture on respect for the dead. But we still thought it was funny. That's why TPTB send young men to war - basically because they (the idiot young boys) think its fun - at least at first. Afterwards, well, some of the consequences aren't so hot. But young men keep on going. Go figure.

PY-129-20's picture

This happens basically everywhere in the world. They bury the waste and think it's okay and after while nobody will notice it anymore. It's already a global industry. You find that sort of dreck everywhere in South Italy (South of Naples). But that's just the tip of the iceberg.

At the beginning they (mostly Italians) dumped the radioactive waste in Somalia, which - at least according to the Pirates there, was the starting point for local fishers to search for a new business model. Now the pirates cooperate with that waste mafia to bury the shit everywhere there. Okay, nobody is interested in Somalia. It's just another hellhole on planet Earth.

But they look for other places as well. Contaminated waste from American enterprises was dumped in Haiti with the help of the Italians and some French. One time they (in Haiti) had a line of 150-200 people waiting outside a hospital - mainly kids and women. The children had rashes everywhere and most of the women had a loss of hair. Some Dutch companies dumped their dreck also in Africa. German companies are not better of course than the above mentioned.

Here in Germany we've got also places that are contaminated. There are lots of WWII relicts still in the ground (see the Munich Explosion yesterday [LINK]].  We had one dud here on our ground. It's common. But you can safely walk in many woods here. And there were some fierce fightings in the woods of Rhineland-Palatinate between German and American troops.

But please be careful if you walk into a French wood (especially Alsace / Lorraine). I've seen things there that still scare me as an experienced hiker. WWII-relicts that are still in place and deadly.  Whenever I encountered one I informed the local officals. But I was surprised how many of those things are still intact. And I am not talking about mines and stuff. There are some nasty and deadly traps out there, some of them pretty close to local towns.

If you move to a certain area, I can only recommend you to inform yourself about what was there before. You want to call that place a home, a stable and safe environment. Make sure that you know more about the water quality, historical and geological data.

hannah's picture

"Allies dropped of 2.8million tons during WWII, massively eclipsing the 75,000  tons unleashed by the Luftwaffe on Britain"

"The heavy bombing of German cities was part of the Allie's area bombing strategy."

"As a result, few towns escaped extensive damage from air raids and, by 1945, 543,000 civilians had been killed by the allied assault, compared with 60,000 in Britain."


what i cant stand is how the usa started the ww2 in europe and should be responsible for all the cleanup and deaths..../sarc


i am so sick of this leftest bs propaganda. my grandfather and his brothers either died in the war or had arms and legs blown off or horribly burned. most living the rest of their lives in va hospitals as morphine addicts. funny how the germans started the war yet they are now victims.....this is bullshit. funny my grandfather and his family were german and still spoke german. why dont we have the german state compensate my family for the pain they caused the americans...?


*i just love this perversion of reality...the americans killed 543k civilians while the germans ONLY killed 60k british civilians in bombings......

Joebloinvestor's picture

It's federal property, let the "super fund" clean it up if there is any money left in it.

NotApplicable's picture

Transfer the Pentagon there. Win-win!

janchup's picture

Building high-rise apartments on fill in SF Bay, radioactive or not, is a phenominal tribute to some developers greed who must be optimistic that people are dumb enough to not realize what happens to fill in an earthquake.

ceilidh_trail's picture

Houses built on fill on SFs bayshore did not hold up to well in 1989 from what I remember... Maybe deep pilings into bedrock? Otherwise>jello crumbs.

SmittyinLA's picture

This is 100% crony-Socialist community-Redevelopment, it has absolutely nothing to do with capitalism, all the "investors" are hacks like Barak Obama was, taking a point or two or seven without investing a penny, and just to make sure it works they'll fill it with state paid residents, (who they'll work with later in collusion with on health claims from environmental pollution).   

Then 12 years after completion, they'll get a huge new contract to tear the whole thing down, scrape the island clean and plant cat-tails for ducks.

Theosebes Goodfellow's picture

Smitty, we can't overlook the little mess in the LA basin either though. At least there they aren't trying to build high-rises.

Folks tend to forget this was the site of the first core breach melt-down, (if they ever knew it). Ah, Santa Susana, the albatross around Boeing's neck.

Freddie's picture

When these new high-rises on nuclear fill get hit by a quake - it will all turn to jello and those apts will shake rattle and roll (over).

Big Joe Turner - Shake, Rattle & Roll  
HenryBuck's picture

I think if you look into the connection between those developers and Nancy Pelosi, you will understand why this is not getting more attention. 

Bastiat's picture

Lennar is the master developer for Treasure Island.   

HenryBuck's picture

And Pelosi's newphew was president of acquisitions for Lennar. 

monad's picture

This went past the door last month. There's a glitch in the matrix. 

DaveyJones's picture

I didn't know Yasser Arafat lived in Frisco

What will they dig up next?


hannah's picture


vato poco's picture

+1000 for "that's why I did it". Who gives a shit what those assholes WANT to be called?

hannah's picture

believe me, you do not want to be associated with the noob's that would come to town and call SF 'frisco'....the locals are stuck up 'pelosi's' but the frisco crowd was even worse.

Theosebes Goodfellow's picture

Not only that, but it is a cruel and unjust thing to associate Whackjob City with the lovely town that is actually named that in Texas.

Freddie's picture

Call it Crisco.  Or Lube Town.

world_debt_slave's picture

I left Cali a month ago for the interior of the U.S. and loving it. Cali. is a cesspool and anyone with half a brain still there deserves what they will recieve.

Broomer's picture

So much for the men of integrity in the military that are going to save the country when the shit hits the fan.


SmittyinLA's picture

this is a load o crap CA shakedown for more free shit

slewie the pi-rat's picture



but all the oncologists had already ordered their new tesla roadsters...

...right after fuk_u_shima!

slewie the pi-rat's picture

annCoulter was conceived there


  1.  the military
  2. the goobers at all levels plus "incipient ABAG"
  3. corpo's & their pig-men
  4. and unions!

blame it on the indians?  kill some moslems?  stop nulear waste when, after (2012 minus 1945 X 10 X 16,000,000,000,0000) about 67 years right?...

...nobody has yet figured out what to do w/ the toxic wastes and "incerating them so it doesn't matter anymore" may actually NOT be a great idea?

anybody?  sing god bless america another 75 billion times?  put "under god" into the pledge of allegiance while 1954 vintage nannies teach schoolchildren to hide under their desks?


god?  made mandatory?  in america?  no wonder people are pissed!  slewie has been pissed since 1954!  why did they change that? what about all the people who choose not to "believe"?  like that kid's family there or there?  not many really...  that's their problem now, heh heh...  ?  really ?

trust me; but i was only a little boy in 1954.  still it was VERY weird

but apparently others are wondering what to do

change it back?

stop this bullshit?

outlaw "religion?

burn all bibles etc?

let people celebrate their faith traditionally without goobermint censorship or community "guidance"?  not with THESE nannies!

AND/or the total lack of same?  in america?  why?

well if god blesses us what does it matter wtf these asswipes are doing with this hard work of protecting us

we're safe, after all, and...


slewie the pi-rat's picture

eisenhower beats aStevenson in 52 and lets us know about the "military industrial complex" ~ 8 years later

what ARE "their" tools amd means of control

what's a "complex"?

DaveyJones's picture

Are you sure Ann Coulter was conceived?

General Decline's picture

Yep. And then subsequently hatched

Buck Johnson's picture

Secrets that have been hidden for decades are starting to unravel.

Nage42's picture

Ah!  But as long as they are not the secrets that are really trying to be hiden...

It's important to roll out all of these old problems, where the criminals have already gotten away with it (i.e., Lie[b]more, eco-disasters, et al.), so that the plebs won't pay attention to what's really going on, _right now_ that they might otherwise pay attention to.  Think of it as engaging someone's interest so they'll care about something you don't care about, maybe we should give it a name: "directing/channeling moral opportunity costs."  something like that.  If morality and protest for morality is a zero sum game (time/effort of those who are motivated people that give a shit), then it's important to force the hand in a direction you don't care about, rather than leave them to decide on actual merits what they will protest... pretty tricky, right?

Along the same vein as why the Tuna fishing industry in Japan pays the old guard farts to keep whaling, cause as long as people have their panties in a bunch about whales, no one will pay attention to the decimation of the bluefin, which is a x100M larger enterprise in terms of money to be made.


Queue music for follow the ball under one of the cups trick.

DaveyJones's picture

you mean High Energy Drinks are NOT the NY AG's top priority?  

The economy's on too much caffeine, why not us?

max2205's picture

Didn't I see this last week?

goldfish1's picture

I thought the article was about measuring the fuk u shima radiation.

Nozza's picture

Er, yes but no lol same story but with a slightly different slant. I think.

monad's picture

No, its the same hatchet job. Repetition is an msm tactic, this article calls into question zh agenda. As does "George Washington"'s fairly standard msm smears. Just taking that name & attaching it to unsubstantiated claims is an attempt at legitimacy transfer - don't question GW, its unpatriotic? Don't take his name in vain, troll.

Just the facts, man. Names, dates places. Aspersions and innuendo are for moppets. Show me the money!

NotApplicable's picture

Now, why you gotta go act so damb dumb in public?

Tell me, how can this contribute to a "zh agenda" when these articles are submitted by OTHER people?

Did you know these people actually act under their own power?

monad's picture

See the RNC hijacking? Nuf sed

Names, dates, places. This is how you do it:

sumo's picture

So ... it's an ideal place for a FEMA camp?

NotApplicable's picture

Better yet, a think-tank.

The Treasure Island Institute for Global Studies

ag3nt0rang3's picture

Call a spade a spade, its outright treason.

Freddie's picture

Can we pump this radioactive sludge on Nancy Pelosi's vineyards, her hotel, her restaurant and her home?  No unionized workers at her businesses.  Can we pump it into Feinstein and Boxer's homes?    Californicators voted for this.  Let em eat fkkking (yellow) cake.

goldfish1's picture

Sorry for your deficiencies.

Tyler: Is there a bozo button to remove posts from current view?

Freddie's picture

Are you a Pelosi supporter?  This is her fvkkking district moron.  She cares more about lining her pockets and her former private air force of USAF Gulfstream that she and her family flew on.  The locals apparently care more about her leftist agenda then having a radiation pit nearby.   

The locals voted for her and they get what they deserve and I guess what they get is a LOT of fvkkking radioactivity.

Bastiat's picture

You dilute the word.  These are the footprints of treason:

On the Colorado Public TV website, the nitty gritty from Architects and Engineers: an hour and a half on the overwhelming evidence for demolition.  Complete with Cog Dis therapy at the end. 9/11: Explosive Evidence - Experts Speak Out

mkkby's picture

If this is how our military is protecting us, I'll gladly trade it for an occasional terrorist.  Cut the budget 90% and make their sole purpose to defend the borders.

vato poco's picture

Shit like this was why I gave up on Tom Clancy novels in the early '90's. Clancy's heroes were always (usually federal) warriors with a uniform and/or a badge. Brave men  - and women, too! Women can do ANYthing any man can! Everyone knows this! - filled with a magnificent personal Honor, willing to sacrifice even their lives to defend Truth and America, but never their sacred, sorry, I meant their "Honor". 

Then I grew up. I realized that anyone on the military over the rank of, say, Major/Lt. Commander got that rank got that rank more through political adroitness than any particular military wonderfulness. ("If you recieve the memo, don't send it to us: we hate paper trails!") And as for the world-class dedication & professionalism of our badged warrior caste, well....1992 & 1993 pretty much took care of that. Between a pack of feral cops beating the shit outta Rodney King & then lying about it, even under oath; to a pack of feral ATF & FBI scum killing Randy Weaver's 14-year-old son (shot in the back) and his (unarmed) wife (shot in the head while holding an infant) & then lying about it, even under oath; to the entire Waco debacle where a pack of feral feds got their asses shot off, brought in milspec reinforcements and went nuts & then lied about it, even under oath. (Anyone seen the front door to the Waco complex lately? The one that had hundreds of bullet holes INbound, proving the ATF was firing blindly through the closed door, in violation of every ROE ever written? Yeah....neither has the FBI. They "lost it" somehow.)

Fuck those lying, gold-plated, gold-braided cocksuckers anyway. Hit 'em where it hurts: cut their goddamn budgets!!