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Miranda
New detection of Toxic metals alarms Shipyard Neighbors Photo: Sharon Wickham SF Public Press

ONE BIG MAN — ONE HOT TRUCK!

Settlement proposed for UCSF shipyard worker with radioactive truck

Dr. Ahimsa Sumchai
Dr. Ahimsa Sumchai

•••••••••• December 20, 2023 ••••••••••

John Joseph Miranda is a deeply humble man — loyal to his family, friends, and his job. Miranda is a highly skilled UCSF senior animal technician who, for 26 years, worked at Building 830 - 75 Crisp Road, located on the southwestern border of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. The Crisp Road campus's 800 series buildings housed the main laboratories, administrative offices, storage areas, and animal kennels used by scientists of the Naval Radiological Defense Laboratories (NRDL) from 1946 to 1969 - when NRDL was officially disestablished.

By 1955, NRDL had attracted “the best & the brightest” from the major universities Lawrence Livermore, UC Berkeley, UCSF and Stanford. NRDL consolidated laboratories, classrooms, and administrative operations into Building 815 - the six-story windowless structure that has become a shipyard landmark...second only to the iconic Hunters Point Gantry Crane.

Point Gantry Crane
Excavation at Point Gantry Crane

Deep soil excavations and heavy equipment operations conducted by the Navy within yards of an estimated 30 State of California workers “held hostage” in Building 830 - 75 Crisp Road on the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard Federal Superfund site…within 200 feet of a radiation-contaminated industrial landfill and shoreline that in 2012 underwent a CERCLA action characterizing it to contain radionuclides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Behind Buildings 830, 831 and 815 is Parcel A-2, where Lennar is building houses at the Hunters Point hilltop.

Lennar Development
Lennar development Photo by Hunters Point fence line resident Kelly Tankersley

Buildings 830 and 831 were used as animal kennels by the NRDL. As detailed by former NRDL scientist Dr. Janette Sherman, brutal experiments subjected unanesthetized animals as large as cattle to high-beam radiation.

Parcel E-2
Diagram outlines the dimensions of the landfill area (red) and dangerously contaminated western panhandle region (yellow) and their proximity to the UCSF Building 830 & 830 compound (blue) at Parcel E-2 looking South from adjacent hillside.

Missing from the diagram is a community of 23,000 people living on city streets adjacent to a chain metal fence that courses south to the north shore of Yosemite Slough - where the Navy deposited radioactive metal slag, blocks away from senior housing, children's playgrounds, churches, nonprofits, and neighborhood health centers.

Soil before Cleanup
Health risks from contaminated soil and gasses at Parcel E-2
Third Street map
MTA transit routes 94124

Missing also are cleanup records highlighting how dangerous exposure to the Parcel E-2 landfill and shoreline are. Navy documents show breathing vapors from landfill gas carries cancer risks as high as 1 in 10,000 for shipyard workers and as astronomically high as 5 in 1000 for residents living on nearby city streets like Fitch, Griffith and Ingalls.

Six blocks west of the shipyards panhandle region courses 3rd street - a central commercial and industrial corridor for the City & County of San Francisco, and the principal transit corridor for Bayview Hunters Point and millions of people entering the city northbound from Highway 101.

Crisp Road Entry
childrens playground
Children's playground

At the Crisp Road entry to the UCSF Compound and former NRDL radiation laboratory is a children's playground.

Air monitoring data collected by the Navy in 2023 from stations located along the western fence line detect elevations in asbestos, arsenic, manganese, lead and total particulates at upwind monitors U1 through U6 in regions colored pink along the western fence line on Fitch Street, adjacent to the Parcel E-2 landfill.

These pink regions are designated Tier 1 hot spots where chemicals of concern are detected in soil at concentrations ten times greater than remediation goals and where groundwater concentrations exceed aquatic quality goals.

Tier 1
Tiet 1 hot-spots: View of the Hunters Point shipyard Parcel E-2 shoreline and landfill looking south from the Hunters Point hilltop overlooking Buildings 830 and 831 at 75 Crisp Road - circa 2000.
quote marks

John Miranda is the lead plaintiff in an occupational injury case filed by two UCSF workers with respiratory disease and one with cancer. Miranda is disabled by heart failure and chronic lung disease. In legal statements, the workers report they witnessed the Parcel E-2 landfill fire that erupted in “green, yellow, and orange” flames on in front of Building 830. They were never evacuated or relieved of duty.”

John Miranda is a quiet man whose intelligence is often underestimated. The tendency to minimize his trained observational skills and dismiss his medical symptoms is due to the fact he is an obese Latino male.

Miranda is the subject of a PBS NOVA Science documentary by Firelight Productions scheduled for filming in early January 2024. The topic of the documentary is medical racism, and Miranda is an expert.
In 2021, a San Francisco Public Press article featured Miranda, authored by award-winning journalist Chris Roberts, titled Toxic Metals Found in Shipyard Neighbors, but Source Still Unknown.

After 26 years at the shipyards, Miranda was exhausted. He developed difficulty breathing and lightheadedness that interfered with his ability to work — and to walk. A non-smoker, Miranda had no history of animal fur or dust allergies when he underwent a battery of pulmonary function tests in 2019.

Performed by both a pulmonologist and a cardiologist, the studies revealed heart failure, occupational asthma, and damage to his lung tissue from chronic exposure to chemicals, fumes, and toxic air contaminants.

Referred to an expert in occupational medicine in 2021, Miranda reports that within “five minutes of entering the office,” he was told his difficulty breathing was because “you are overweight.”

Medical Racism

Scholarly research on medical racism offers evidence that obesity does disproportional harm to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) that may be attributed to systemic racism in medical institutions.

“The immense costs - to lives, health, and wealth - of not preventing and treating obesity are exacerbated for people of color. We urgently need to study and solve the core issues at the intersection of obesity and systemic racism.”

Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, MPA
Weight Center-Massachusetts General Hospital.

“First, it is important to recognize that the interplay of obesity and racism is real,” says Fatima Cody Stanford - an obesity medicine physician-scientist, educator, and policy maker at Harvard Medical School. Research identifies obesity to be a product of systemic racism that influences the tendency of medical professionals to offer negative, judgmental and substandard care to people of color who are overweight.

unfortified fence
Photograph captured by a UCSF worker in Building 830 at the unfortified chain metal fence separating 30 state employees from deep soil excavations conducted by the Navy at the Parcel E-2 landfill within feet of their compound. A Proposition 65 sign warning workers of asbestos exposure was illegally removed in 2021.

The ongoing agony of toxic exposure

Fifteen current and former workers underwent urinary biomonitoring screenings beginning in 2020 - all have manganese detected in concentrations exceeding remediation goals. Manganese has a 100% detection frequency in shipyard soils and air monitoring. Uranium, cesium, cobalt, thallium, tungsten and arsenic have also been detected in astounding concentrations.

HP Biomonitoring's geospatial mappings are undergoing digital conversion through a CalEPA EJ small grant award. They include the South Basin cluster - four chemicals detected in the aggregate, including arsenic, gadolinium, manganese, and vanadium; the Radiogenic Cancer Cluster, and the Breast Cancer Necklace.

cancer clusters
The South Basin Cluster
breast-cancer-necklace
Breast cancer necklace
ionizing-radiation-cancers
Cancers induced by ionizing radiation

All four geospatial mappings are densely clustered within the half-mile perimeter of the naval base, concentrated at the main gate and track along the western fence line adjacent to the Parcel E-2 landfill.

The Radionuclids of Concern (ROC) Cluster is a geospatial mapping of locations where biomarkers of radionuclides of concern are found in high concentrations.

ROC Cluster - radionuclides of concern updated 12/01/23
ROC Cluster - radionuclides of concern updated 12/01/23

All four chemical and cancer cluster mappings correspond to heavily contaminated regions of the shipyard. Each colored pin corresponds to radioactive and chemical biomarkers in high concentrations. In both the ROC and the Radiogenic Cancer mappings, dense clusters of pins track along the Crisp Road to Palou Avenue main gate and along the western fence line.

Both cancer and chemical clusters have been mapped in Building 830, where 30 UCSF workers are being actively exposed to nuclear waste in Parcel E-2 soils and radioactive fugitive dust emissions.

Settlement Proposed for UCSF Shipyard Worker with a Radioactive Truck

buildings

UCSF has proposed a settlement in a worker's injury claim filed by the University of California employees stationed in Building 830 at 75 Crisp Road within feet of a methane-emitting, radiation-contaminated industrial landfill and Federal Superfund site. Building 830 was used by NRDL as an animal kennel and sold to UCSF in 1970 after its closure.
Buildings 830 and 831 are radiologically impacted and were never cleared by the California Department of Public Health for human occupancy as required by the Federal Superfund laws.

An independent scoping survey conducted in 2022 for UCSF by Philotechnics detected “several radionuclides above background, including cesium, radium, thorium, uranium and their progeny.”
The EPA ECHO Enforcement tool identifies the top two environmental law violators in the 94124 zip code to be the Southeast wastewater pollution control plant and the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard Facility Search - Enforcement and Compliance Data/ECHO/US EPA

Bayview
Photo: Maurice Campbell

The Landfill In Our Bodies

The southern shoreline of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard contains an industrial landfill designated Parcel E-2. It occupies a horseshoe shaped region of the shoreline and drains “like a toilet” into the South Basin of San Francisco Bay and the Yosemite Slough Federal Superfund site. On August 16, 2000, at 11:30 am, base security activated federal firefighters who extinguished a fire over 48 hours. It smoldered underground for weeks, fueled by volatile gases, flammable building materials, trash, and debris beneath the landfill surface — and it reignited on August 24, 2000.

pyrotechnic

John Miranda is the lead plaintiff in an occupational injury case filed by two UCSF workers with respiratory disease and one with cancer. Miranda is disabled by heart failure and chronic lung disease. In legal statements, the workers report they witnessed the Parcel E-2 landfill fire that erupted in “green, yellow, and orange” flames on in front of Building 830. They were never evacuated or relieved of duty.

The chemical fire, which was ignited from methane gas pockets beneath the landfill surface, occurred on a summer day when temperatures exceeded 93 degrees. It took a year for the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry to complete its investigation of the Parcel E-2 landfill fire. Although air monitoring samples were not collected until three weeks after the surface fires had been extinguished, the ATSDR report documents manganese that was detected in high concentrations.

Colored fire - a wikipedia image showing the pyrotechnic effect used in stage productions when chemicals are added to burning fuel to create colored flames

Workers and nearby residents described the colorful flames of the landfill that erupted on August 16th, reignited on August 24th, and smoldered for months fueled by subsurface methane, carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds and heavy metals like strontium, calcium, copper and potassium.

E-2-shoreline-and-south-basin
Aerial photo of the Parcel E-2 shoreline and South Basin. The photo depicts the proximity of the landfill — covered in green grass — to the residential community in the upper right-hand corner

In medicolegal records, UCSF workers also report witnessing Navy personnel release the contents of the Parcel E-2 landfill into the atmosphere above the City of San Francisco, within feet of the western fence line neighborhood. A worker who has witnessed the landfill release underwent surgery this year for colon cancer at the age of 55.

Navy Operations obtains approval to release gases beneath the surface of the landfill - including methane in suffocating, explosive, global warming concentrations exceeding 60% volume in air as confirmed by Nina Bacey - former Department of Toxic Substances Control representative on the Base Realignment and Closure Team.

Parcel A landfill
A cross-sectional diagram distributed by the Navy to the Hunters Point Shipyard Restoration Advisory Board in 2001 details the proximity of methane gas and landfill debris to the UCSF compound. Methane gas in concentrations exceeding 60% volume in air emanated into the UCSF compound, where workers reported the smell of methane gas.

Superheroes Come In All Sizes

John Miranda Screening
John Miranda’s biomonitoring screening Photo: Sharon Wickham - San Francisco Public Press

John Miranda's 2020 urinary screening detected manganese in elevated concentrations. Quest Laboratory verified the finding. A repeat biomonitoring screening conducted in 2023 detected four chemicals known to be present in shipyard soil … including cobalt. Cobalt 60 is a radionuclide of concern at the Parcel E-2 landfill.

As a condition of settlement, the manganese detected in high concentrations in Miranda’s urinary screening is accepted as evidence of occupational injury. This represents a legal victory for the Hunters Point Community Biomonitoring Program, where manganese has been detected in high concentrations in an estimated 80% of 150 screenings to date.

John Miranda never set out to become a Superhero. Every morning at 5 am he arose for work - in the old truck he drove faithfully to work for 26 years. Sadly, Geiger counter readings conducted on the truck detected gamma wave and radioactive particle emissions.

Now John Joseph Miranda is about to take on the United States Navy at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard!

conference
Dr. Ahimsa Porter Sumchai represented the Hunters Point Biomonitoring Foundation in a panel discussion held on September 27, 2023, at the California Lance Recycling Conference in Southern California. Sponsored by the Justice40 Accelerator

Dr. Ahimsa Porter Sumchai is a climate activist living on the Westside.

December 20, 2023

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