Treasure Island soil contains nuclear byproduct


An investigation commissioned by the Center for Investigative Reporting found that soil samples from Treasure Island have elevated levels of a byproduct that is linked to cancer.

Cesium-137 is a byproduct of nuclear fission and was discovered after reporters gathered samples that were tested by two independent laboratories. The findings were three times higher than those reported by the U.S. Navy and about 60 percent higher than the Navy’s threshold for environmental safety.

The samples were taken from land that is slated for a 20,000-resident redevelopment project, estimated at $1.5 billion, by the city of San Francisco.

Treasure Island’s Cold War past has remained somewhat of a mystery and the CIR’s results seem to challenge the military’s previous statements.

The city has made no comment on the findings and neither has the Department of Public Health.

According to the report, which included Jan Beyea a nuclear physicist specialized in exposure to low radiation levels,  Beyea said the findings from the CIR do not immediately mean health hazards.

However, Beyea said the concentrations should call for further investigation since there may be areas with higher amounts of Cesium-137.

The Environmental Protection Agency sanctioned Cesium-137 to be associated with cancer and can increase rates more than other environmental exposures.

The CIR also shared its results with the Navy. They responded with a statement explaining that their limited amount of data does not provide enough evidence to determine site conditions.

The findings may strengthen the Department of Public Health’s claims that the Navy did not properly clean the radioactive waste and that the Navy marginalized the island’s military history for a faster sale.

The Navy will receive a $100 million pay out from San Francisco once they have performed an appropriate clean up.


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