Lawsuit Filed Over Radioactive Waste at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard


Berkeley Law’s Environmental Law Clinic filed a lawsuit on behalf of Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice on June 28, 2024 against the United States Navy and Environmental Protection Agency over the Superfund cleanup at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco, California. The suit primarily concerns radioactive contamination at the shipyard, which is slated for development into a mini-city with more than 10,000 residences.

“The combination of Bay-level and groundwater rise from climate change threatens to mobilize shipyard contamination, polluting the Bay and endangering the entire Bay Area. We’re suing because the Navy and EPA refuse to take their legal obligations seriously,” says Bradley Angel, Greenaction’s executive director. 

In the early 1950s, the Navy used the shipyard to decontaminate 79 ships contaminated with radiation from nuclear weapons tests in the South Pacific known as “Operation Crossroads.” The decontamination efforts spread radioactivity throughout the shipyard. It was listed as a Superfund cleanup site in 1989.

The Navy’s radiological remediation contractor, Tetra Tech EC, Inc., committed fraud, which was discovered in 2012. Rather than investigating, the Navy allowed Tetra Tech to investigate and clear itself. However, whistleblowers came forward to detail the fraud in sworn statements, leading Greenaction, which at the time was represented by the Environmental Law and Justice Clinic at Golden Gate Law School, to file a Petition to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2017, seeking to revoke Tetra Tech’s license. In 2023, the NRC denied the Petition.

The suit charges the agencies are violating the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), the law governing Superfund cleanups. It alleges that the Navy has reneged on its agreement to retest 100% of the fraudulent remediation by its former radiological contractor, Tetra Tech EC, Inc.

The suit also alleges that the Navy violated CERCLA’s Five-Year Review requirement, which mandates that the Navy publish reviews at least every five years, certifying that the cleanup protects human health and the environment. The Navy’s most recent, and Fourth, review failed to assure the remedies are protective, unlawfully deferring that determination for five years, until the next review. The Navy published its Draft Fifth Five Year Review in January 2024. The public comment period ended on May 7, 2024. The clinic submitted comments on behalf of Greenaction. The Navy plans to issue the Final Review in July 2024.

Kamilla Ealom, a lifelong resident of Bayview Hunters Point and a Greenaction organizer, says, “The Navy must be forced to do 100% retesting of Tetra Tech’s fraudulent work. Since the fraud was discovered, the Navy has spent years trying to sweep the fraud under the rug. Retesting found radiological contamination that triggers 100% retesting three years ago! Since the Navy won’t live up to the agreement it made, we’ll ask a federal judge to force them to.”