Tom Butt
  E-Mail Forum – 2019  
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  Zeneca Clean Up Resolution
September 25, 2019

At last night’s City Council meeting, the City Council voted 5-2, with Willis and Martinez dissenting, to adopt a resolution supporting the DTSC Alternative 3A remediation of the Zeneca site instead of the Alternative 6 previously endorsed by the City Council. The final decision is not actually Richmond’s; it will be made by DTSC when they publish their final Feasibility Study and Remedial Action Plan for Lot 1, Lot 2, and the Uplands Portion of Lot 3, Campus Bay, Richmond, California.

There were 45 speakers with all but about five (mostly representing the construction trades) urging the City Council to stick with backing Alternative 6.

This is 14 years after DTSC first took responsibility for the site. The Draft Remedial Action Plan (RAP) concluded with a comparison of the various alternative plans, recommending Alternative 3a based on the following:

  • Meets the threshold criteria for protection of human health and the environment (e.g.,meets RAOs [Remedial Action Objectives]) and would comply with applicable requirements.
  • Moderate to high rankings on all of the balancing criteria, including a high overall long‐term effectiveness ranking and provides cleanup to accommodate the potential future land uses set forth in the RBSP.
  • Relatively high cost‐effectiveness compared with other alternatives evaluated.

Essentially, those who opposed the resolution supporting Alternative 3A disagreed with the DTSC recommendation.

It is instructive to look back when this all began. At that time, many of the same people who showed up last night to protest the DTSC recommendation were gushing over the decision to place DTSC in charge, citing DTSC’s superior expertise and experience over the discredited San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, and characterizing the change from the Water Board to DTSC as a “victory,” with the assurance of “proper agency oversight”. On May 16, 2005, the Green Party of California published the following news release:

Cal-EPA agrees to lead clean-up of highly toxic, possibly lethal San Francisco Bay sites after pressure by Green city council member

For immediate release: Monday, May 16, 2005

Cres Vellucci, State Press Office, 916-996-1970,
Beth Moore Haines, GPCA Spokesperson, 530-277-0610,
Kevin McKeown, GPCA Spokesperson, 310-393-3639,
Sara Amir, GPCA Spokesperson, 310-270-7106,

RICHMOND (May 16, 2005) – The clean-up of two highly toxic – and possibly lethal – shoreline sites on San Francisco Bay will now be supervised by the state Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) after a newly-elected Green Party city councilmember in Richmond led a grassroots drive to force the state agency to take immediate action.

The sites are thought to be the source of many life-threatening cancers and other ailments to people in the area, according to doctors and local activists. Both sites are contaminated with dangerous compounds, ranging from mercury and heavy metals to pesticides, PCBs and other hazardous chemicals.

The California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal-EPA) announced late last week that it has agreed – after demands by Richmond City Council member Gayle McLaughlin and area progressives – to give DTSC chief oversight at the University of California, Berkeley's Richmond Field Station and adjacent Zeneca/Cherokee-Simeon Campus Bay .

"This is a wonderful victory for the many community groups and Richmond residents who mobilized to demand the proper agency oversight for cleanup of these extremely toxic sites. It is an incredible example of how a community rallying in its own interest can accomplish a better and healthier Richmond," said McLaughlin, who carried the unanimous resolution by the Richmond City Council calling on Cal-EPA to act more rigorously in correcting problems in the area.

Initially, the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board had full jurisdiction over both sites. Community mobilization late last year resulted in a DTSC/Water Board split over jurisdiction over the Zeneca site with the Water Board retaining full jurisdiction of the UC Field Station.

However, McLaughlin and others called for a full change in the oversight of these adjoining contamination sites to DTSC because the Water Board did not have, they charged, the "expertise or experience" to handle the complex cleanup.

McLaughlin worked with Bay Area Residents for Responsible Development (BARRD), West County Toxics Coalition and the Richmond Progressive Alliance, which helped elect McLaughlin to the Richmond City Council last November.

The Green Party of California
P.O. Box 2828, Sacramento, CA 95812
Phone: (916) 448-3437

The message, of course, was that in 2005 Gayle McLaughlin, Bay Area Residents for Responsible Development (BARRD), West County Toxics Coalition and the Richmond Progressive Alliance, had full faith in DTSC to study the Zeneca site and recommend a cleanup. Now, in 2019, they are saying they don’t really trust DTSC after all.

I don’t like DTSC, but I have no reason to distrust their science. Over the years, the DTSC employees I have come in contact with are arrogant, unpleasant, uncooperative and deceptive. I specifically recall two specifically unpleasant high level meetings to discuss Zeneca with DTSDC, one arranged by former Senator Loni Hancock and the other by Senator Nancy Skinner. You would think a high profile public agency like DTSC would develop a better public relations capability, but they haven’t.

In voting for the resolution, I felt bad about defying the wishes of so many Community Advisory Group (CAG) members who have volunteered untold hours on Zeneca over the last 14 years. If it is any consolation, I can assure them that their hard work made both the study and the design on a remediation plan far more rigorous than it would have been otherwise – a huge value added contribution.