Hundreds of residents of Hunters Point/Bayview and the SF Shipyards development have filed lawsuits alleging that Tetra Tech committed widespread fraud in the cleanup of San Francisco’s former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. On October 26, 2018, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it was pursuing a lawsuit against Tetra Tech for submitting false records, including falsified data and soil samples, in connection with the remediation of radiation at Hunters Point. The DOJ Tetra Tech lawsuit comes after the government decided to intervene in three whistleblower lawsuits against Tetra Tech concerning faked cleanup data.
The cases are now in front of a single federal judge in northern California.
Residents of the SF Shipyard development are also suing Lennar/FivePoint, the developers that sold them their property, which they allege has fallen substantially in value due to the uncertainty about whether Tetra Tech finished cleaning up the radiation in the area.
Department of Justice Pursues Tetra Tech Lawsuit for Faking Cleanup
The Department of Justice is pursuing a lawsuit against Tetra Tech, a government contractor hired by the U.S. Navy to test the land at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard for radiation and remediate areas where the radiation was excessive. According to the DOJ press release, Tetra Tech allegedly misrepresented the source of soil samples it submitted for radiological testing and falsified data collected from radiological surveys of buildings.
Earlier this year, two Tetra Tech supervisors, Stephen C. Rolfe and Justin E. Hubbard, pleaded guilty to falsifying records related to the Hunters Point cleanup. Rolfe and Hubbard both admitted in their guilty pleas that they substituted non-radioactive dirt from clean areas of Hunters Point rather than take soil samples from the portions of Hunters Point being analyzed. According to a statement by Assistant Attorney General Joseph H. Hunt of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, “it was of critical importance to the United States Navy, and the public, that Tetra Tech perform accurately and fully the radiological testing and remediation at the Hunters Point site for which it was hired.”
Lawsuit: Tetra Tech Allegedly Falsified its Cleanup Since 2009
Hunters Point Naval Shipyard is a former U.S. Navy base that was decommission in 1974. According to an article by SFGate, the Hunters Point Shipyard site is “laced with dangerous, long-lasting, radioactive isotopes from the 1940s, when the Navy used the shipyard to perform animal experiments with radiation and to decontaminate ships exposed to atomic-bomb tests in the Pacific Ocean.” The EPA designated Hunters Point as a Superfund site in 1989.
The Navy eventually hired Tetra Tech to remediate radiation present at Hunters Point. In 2004, after Tetra Tech determined that portions of Hunters Point were clean and suitable for development, the Navy transferred portions of Hunters Point over to the city of San Francisco, who turned it over to a commercial developer, Lennar/FivePoint. Lennar/FivePoint broke ground on new homes in 2013 and as of mid-2018, had completed about 300 housing units. An additional 10,500 were planned at Hunters Point overall.
Several whistleblowers have gone on the record and reported that Tetra Tech has been falsifying its cleanup since 2009. For example, in a declaration before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, former Tetra Tech employee Anthony Smith alleged that Tetra Tech had conduced “false soil sampling, incomplete building surveys, falsification of chain-of-custody documentation, and data manipulation.” Smith also alleged that he had been ordered multiple times by supervisors to destroy soil samples showing radioactive contamination, and that Tetra Tech employees switched real samples with fake clean soil “pretty much every day” as many as 800-1000 times. Another former employee, Brent Bowers, said that Tetra Tech’s work at Hunters Point “was the most egregious violation of standard protocol” he had encountered in his 35-year career.
In 2017 analyses by the Navy and EPA, as much as 97 percent of Tetra Tech’s cleanup data was determined to be unreliable. According to a report by SF Curbed, the U.S. Navy says a do-over of the cleanup is necessary.