Source: http://www.mercurynews.com, October 7, 2017
By: David Debolt
The Oakland A’s are moving forward on a dream to build a new stadium at Peralta Community College headquarters, but they may first have to clear an environmental hurdle that has hovered over the land for years.
A review of county records shows that since 2013, the community college district has failed to act on the Alameda County Department of Environmental Health’s calls to further study a historically toxic site on the proposed stadium land.
The years of failed responses even brought in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, which confirmed it has an investigation into the situation underneath East Eighth Street and Fifth Avenue, district headquarters.
The amount of hazardous materials in the ground is unclear, because the site hasn’t been tested since 2012, but the issue could become a bargaining chip during anticipated land negotiations between the A’s and the deficit-plagued, four-college district.
“Historically around the bay, we’ve found that when there is redevelopment proposed for a property, all parties get very interested in ensuring the site is cleaned up,” Bruce Wolfe, executive officer of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, said, speaking generally. “In many cases, it drives the cleanup.”
The A’s are prepared to pay for the costs, team President Dave Kaval said Wednesday, but the price tag remains unclear. Any needed environmental cleanup costs would come after a study of impacts.
Historically an issue
For Peralta, the issue is at least 25 years old at a site identified as a potential home for the A’s dating back to 2001.
Studies of the site in 1992 by ACC Environmental Consultants and Environ of Emeryville found diesel, gasoline, benzene, toluene and other substances in the soil and two possible groundwater plumes impacted by carcinogens, according to environmental reports by each organization.
One plume was located under the maintenance yard at district headquarters at East Eighth Street and Fifth Avenue, and the other was across the street beneath Laney College’s baseball field.
The findings came after removal of five underground gasoline and diesel storage tanks installed by the city of Oakland prior to 1960 and three fiberglass tanks that Peralta installed after it acquired the land in 1981, according to ACC Environmental Consultants.
Through the 1990s, ACC routinely monitored the sites. In its final soil and groundwater report in 2012, the environmental consultants concluded the plume underneath the district offices “pose(s) minimal risk to human health or the environment.” But the report recommended that each plume, particularly the one closer to the Lake Merritt channel, should be further investigated because of potential harmful substances from an unknown source.
No other studies have been conducted, and the issue sat dormant.
In 2013, then-senior hazardous materials specialist Jerry Wickman sent Peralta a letter in response to an ACC report. It acknowledged the sampling was “adequately performed” but asked for continued sampling and analysis from each bore where tests were conducted. The county’s environmental health department sent “notices to comply” to the district in 2015 and 2016, noting it was out of compliance with a state regulatory code.
Despite warnings they may be found in violation and the District Attorney’s Office could force compliance, Peralta leaders did not respond, Paresh Khatri, a county supervising hazardous materials specialist, said Wednesday. About six weeks ago, Khatri’s office told the district it must conduct new testing because state policies have changed in the past four years.
“Until they submit something, that’s the status,” said Khatri.
While Peralta is hardly alone as an East Bay fuel leak site, Alyce Sandbach of the Alameda District Attorney’s environmental unit confirmed Thursday the office has an active investigation that Peralta is cooperating with.
New testing of the soil will cost the district more money. On a recent visit to district headquarters, this news agency found fresh pavement over previously used bores.
Peralta Vice Chancellor of General Services Sadiq Ikharo on Friday acknowledged the DA’s investigation and correspondence with Khatri and blamed the district’s lack of response on a “break in communication.” Ikharo said the county had been sending its compliance letters to an employee who no longer worked at Peralta.
“It appears that most of (the) recent information had not been received by a district representative,” Ikharo wrote in an email.
Earlier in the week, District Chancellor Jowel Laguerre said he had no knowledge of the fuel leak site. Laguerre, who was hired in 2015, said it has not come before the Board of Trustees during his time as district leader.
Kaval, the A’s president who built Avaya Stadium in San Jose on land once used by a chemical manufacturing company, said this week “any remediation would be something we would take on if a ballpark was built there.”
“That would go without saying,” Kaval said. “I think it’s important to understand maybe the ballpark can be a catalyst for some of these things to change in a positive way.”
Former A’s executive Andy Dolich questioned how much any environmental work at the site would cost.
“This is all massive time and money,” Dolich said. “You don’t own the land or have a lease. You wanna tell me how that works? It comes down to how much is this going to cost.”