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shipyard workers

Shipyard workers demand environmental justice

By Ahimsa Porter Sumchai, M.D., San Francisco Bayview, February 1, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

“Parcel A never underwent a full cleanup as required by the federal Superfund Act and was transferred with a litany of residual contaminants from lead and asbestos in buildings to arsenic, metals, motor oil and breakdown products of diesel in soil and groundwater.” This is documented in the Parcel A Record of Decision, a copy of which is included in my private archives of Navy cleanup documents. – Ahimsa Porter Sumchai, M.D. “The Liars Club,” SF Bay View, Sept. 26, 2007

A cleanup worker at the decommissioned Hunters Point Naval Shipyard (HPS) in southeast San Francisco is facing a rare life threatening cancer he believes is caused by his exposure to known toxins at the federal Superfund site.

Diagnosed with a Peripheral T Cell Lymphoma (PTCL), an aggressive high grade lymphoid malignancy arising from cells of the lymphatic system with a five year survival rate of 32 percent, the worker has retained the high powered New York law firm Weitz & Luxenberg. Representatives of W&L’s Environmental Protection, Toxic Tort, Consumer Protection Team will be in Bayview Hunters Point this week conducting meetings and investigations.

On Dec. 17, 2014, Weitz & Luxenberg announced a New York jury took less than two hours to award a $20 million verdict to the family of a Navy shipfitter who died last year of mesothelioma, against defendant corporation Burnham, LLC. In issuing the verdict the jury opined, “The defendant corporation acted with reckless disregard for the plaintiff’s safety when it caused him to be exposed to asbestos insulating their boilers.”

T lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell that plays a central role in cell mediated immunity. Many people are familiar with T lymphocytes because they are attacked by the AIDS virus and we measure their levels in people with HIV disease. In an aggressive lymphoma like PTCL, up to 70 percent of the circulating T cells can be in a cancerous blast form.

Research conducted in the 1990s linked solid cancers arising from cells of the lymphatic system to environmental exposures to PCBs, benzene, ionizing radiation, UV light and pesticides – all toxins that are widespread at HPS. In 2010 the Navy conducted a massive PCB cleanup action at HPS involving over 300 trucks.

The volatile organic compound benzene is listed as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization. Elevated benzene levels have been documented in numerous air monitoring studies conducted in Bayview Hunters Point.

Radium 226 is the most ubiquitous radioactive material found at HPS. Present in “Black Beauty sandblast,” radium dials buried in landfills and poured down the drains of the Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory (NRDL) on Parcel A, inhaled or ingested radium heightens the risk of developing diseases like lymphoma, bone cancers, leukemia and aplastic anemia.

Radium 226 is found at HPS in ambient levels so high that in October 2012, the U.S. Navy detected discrepancies in post remediation soil samples submitted by Tetra Tech field workers because the concentrations of radioactive potassium and Radium 226 were suspiciously low!

Tetra Tech is the Navy contractor overseeing the cleanup at HPS. A laboratory computer data base search identified 2,500 fraudulent samples collected from 20 survey sites involving Tetra Tech workers from 2008 to 2012.

Radiation Control Technician Ray Roberson was one of several field employees and supervisors listed on the chain of custody for the suspicious soil samples. Two of the field workers were terminated and Ray Roberson conveniently died at the conclusion of the damaging investigation.

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By Arthur J Miller

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Damn fate! What did I ever do to be condemned to such dreadful toil? It is not like the Gods of fate need to further convince me that we exist in the domain of a putrid system of blood sucking parasites. I need no further evidence of the essential need of those in wage bondage to raise up against their masters and cast them off to the fires of hell.

The Fine Print I:

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