Draft Public Health Assessment of Richmond Field Station Released by Department of Public Health

August 17, 2007

On July 15, 2007, the state Department of Public Health (DPH) released a draft "Public Health Assessment" (PHA) regarding the University's Richmond Field Station (RFS). The draft PHA evaluates existing RFS environmental data, makes conservative assumptions regarding possible exposures to contaminants found at the site, estimates potential health impacts, and evaluates health concerns raised by some RFS employees.

UC Berkeley is currently performing an extensive review of this draft document and will provide comments to DPH on or before the comment deadline of September 24, 2007.

The University's preliminary review of the draft indicates that many of the assumptions regarding human exposures to soils and the marsh do not reflect realistic scenarios, and UC plans to provide input to correct those assumptions.

Even with the draft's current assumptions, the conclusions are reassuring on many fronts. For example, DPH determined that it is indeed safe for people to walk on RFS grounds and to use the adjacent Bay Trail. Further, DPH concluded that there is to date no evidence of radioactive contamination at the RFS.

However, UC believes that some of the draft's unrealistic assumptions have led to some erroneous and troubling conclusions, including identifying potential health impacts for the small group of RFS workers who occasionally dig in soils at RFS, and to children or teenagers who may have played extensively in West Stege Marsh. UC will be providing comments on the draft PHA to allow for more realistic assumptions that we believe will indicate no health risk to these groups when the report is finalized.

The draft PHA lists nine specific recommended practices, many of which UC Berkeley agrees with and has already implemented. For example, DPH recommends that UC provide RFS staff access to up-to-date maps of structures, soil sampling locations, and contamination levels. These maps were included in the Draft Current Conditions Report prepared on April 5, 2007. Hard copies of the CCR are also available at various locations at the RFS.

DPH also recommends that UC train workers annually on how to identify cinders and actions to take if cinders are identified. UC has provided this training to its workers, and has developed job safety procedures and a soils management plan, which has been approved by the state Department of Toxics Substances Control, the lead agency in charge of overseeing the remediation and restoration of the RFS.

A meeting for RFS staff is being planned for early September in which DPH representatives will discuss and hear comments on the draft's assumptions, conclusions and recommendations. The PHA is available on the Publications page of this website.