Memo: Radiation Poisoning Possible for Treasure Island Residents

People living on San Francisco's Treasure Island could be at risk of radiation poisoning from radioactive shards buried in the area, according to a recent California Department of Public Health memo, the Center for Investigative Reporting reports.

Background

A playground, recreation areas and apartments are located on the former naval base known as Treasure Island. The land is scheduled to be turned over to the city, which plans to build an 8,000-unit high-rise complex on the island.

As of 2011, 575 radioactive shards had been found on Treasure Island. Regulators have speculated that the shards could have been buried for military practice using Geiger counters, which measure radiation.

Earlier this year, CDPH officials found radioactive shards buried in lawns near apartments on the island.

In March, local officials sent a letter to the neighborhood's 2,000 residents saying that low-level radioactivity in the soil near their homes was not a health risk. The letter did not mention the shards found in the lawns.

Details of Memo

In a memo written in June and updated in September, state health department officials said there was no guarantee that the radioactive shards do not pose a health threat.

"Further evaluation should be made of the probability of a member of the public, especially critical members of the population (for example, children), picking up a radioactive fragment and being exposed," the memo states.

The memo adds that testing to evaluate the health threat of radiation in the area has been inadequate.

Response

Following the release of the memo, San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim said, "The Navy needs to investigate any new developments or findings, and I will be asking that the state hold them to a high standard."

In September, the Navy ordered contractors to spend 10 weeks testing the area for radioactive waste.

However, Navy and CDPH officials have not commented on whether the testing found significant amounts of radiation on the island (Smith/Mieszkowski, Center for Investigative Reporting, 11/13).


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