SF couple sue PG&E over Marina contamination

SF couple sue PG&E over Marina contamination

Source: http://www.sfgate.com, May 12, 2017
By: David R. Baker

A San Francisco couple whose home in the Marina district sits atop the remains of an old Pacific Gas and Electric Co. gas plant have sued the utility, saying contamination from the facility threatens the health of their young children.

In the suit, filed Tuesday, Dalene Bramer and Joseph Gabany also say the contamination has prevented them from expanding the home as planned or using its backyard as a play area for the children.

The couple want PG&E to clean up the site and pay damages, with the amount to be determined in court.

“It’s time for PG&E to own their toxic waste site and do the right thing here,” Bramer said, in a statement released by the couple’s lawyer, Stuart Gross. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

PG&E has spent the past seven years taking soil samples in the Marina, where the company used to run two plants that manufactured a fuel similar to natural gas, using coal and sometimes oil as the raw material. Both plants, built in the late 1800s, were largely destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and were later demolished to make way for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

The utility has found soil tainted with such cancer-causing chemicals as benzene and naphthalene. PG&E has scooped out and replaced contaminated earth from 18 properties in the neighborhood, though it has not done so for Bramer and Gabany’s home. In eight of those cases, the utility took the highly unusual step of buying the homes to get at the tainted dirt. The company then resold two of the homes after finishing its cleanup.

PG&E declined to comment specifically on the lawsuit.

“While we don’t believe these sites pose a health concern, we want to work together with each property owner to address any potential remediation needs specific to their property,” said company spokesman Jeff Smith.

Bramer and Gabany, in their complaint, say they did not know about the former gas plants or the contamination when they bought the house on North Point Street in 2009, the year before PG&E’s testing and cleanup program in the Marina began.

They were planning a family at the time and wanted the home’s sizable backyard — a rarity in San Francisco — as a play space for their future children. The couple now have 4-year-old twins.

According to the complaint, Bramer and Gabany negotiated with PG&E for more than a year on the types of soil tests to be conducted, with the couple insisting that the earth be tested for lead. PG&E initially refused to test for lead, the complaint says. Although lead has been found at other manufactured-gas plant sites, testing and cleanup efforts at these types of plants nationwide usually focus on toxic polyaromatic hydrocarbons instead.

Soil samples from the property were tested for lead, in addition to polyaromatic hydrocarbons, last year. The tests found dangerous levels of both types of contamination, with lead levels 56 times higher than California regulators consider safe, according to the suit. The contamination started less than a foot below the ground’s surface.

The complaint says PG&E told the couple that any lead found on the site did not come from the gas plant.

Gross, the couple’s lawyer, could not be reached for comment.

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