Hunters Point Naval Shipyard
Hunters Point Naval Shipyard (alternately known as the San Francisco Naval Shipyard and the Treasure Island Naval Station-Hunters Point Annex) in southeastern San Francisco operated as a private commercial drydock facility from 1869 until 1939, when the U.S. Navy purchased the waterfront site and used it for military shipyard activities until 1974. The site was leased to Triple A Machine shop and used for ship repair until 1986. In 1989 the EPA declared Hunters Point a Federal Superfund Site due to contamination. Hunters Point was closed in 1994 and today is being turned into a planned community.
Military and civilian personnel at Hunters Point were exposed to asbestos when building and servicing Navy vessels. If you worked at Hunter’s point and have been diagnosed with an asbestos disease such as mesothelioma, contact us to discuss your situation for free with a lawyer.
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The Navy acquired Hunters Point just 11 days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, an event that drew the United States into World War II and massively increased the nation’s need for naval shipyard services.
Hunters Point neighborhood was reshaped as the Navy rapidly expanded the shipyard during the war by obtaining local commercial and residential sites and building over them. Naval operations became the dominant force in the neighborhood, providing employment to many locals and others who were drawn to the area with promises of work. About 8,500 civilian workers were employed at the shipyard during its peak.
Developing the site to meet wartime needs included creating the largest shipyard dry dock ever built. The 1,100 foot long dock had the capacity to hold five destroyers and two cruisers or one aircraft carrier and employed the world’s largest crane. Expansion occurred so quickly that at one point, the Navy was bringing in 1,000 new workers per month and placing them in temporary housing along the edges of the shipyard.
Radiological Defense Laboratory
In addition to building, modifying, maintaining, and repairing ships and submarines at Hunters Point, the military also used the shipyard as the site of its Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory (NRDL) from 1948 to 1969.
NRDL decontaminated ships exposed to atomic weapons testing at the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Island, studied the effects of radiation, and researched radiological countermeasures.
EPA Orders Environmental Cleanup
Shipbuilding and NRDL operations at Hunters Point left the site with chemical and radiologic contamination. The shipyard was placed on the EPA’s National Priority List for cleanup in 1989. As the owner of Hunters Point, the Navy is responsible for site cleanup, with the EPA and California EPA overseeing compliance according to the Environmental Restoration Program, a Department of Defense initiative to identify, investigate, and clean up hazardous substances on military properties
Contaminants of concern at the site include petroleum fuel, pesticides, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and the radioactive materials Radium-226, Strontium -90, and Cesium-137. Soil containing so-called “Serpentinite” rock, which has naturally occurring asbestos and metals, has also been found. Cleanup at Hunters Point been active for over two decades. The Navy plans to transfer ownership of the land to San Francisco in 2021.
Asbestos Exposure at Hunters Point
Not all asbestos at Hunters Point is naturally-occurring. Until the 1970s asbestos was commonly used by the Navy in a wide range of building and shipbuilding materials. During World War II and the decades that followed millions of Americans worked at shipyards like Hunters Point and were exposed to asbestos. Some veterans and yardbirds are only now being diagnosed with mesothelioma, an incurable and fast-spreading cancer that takes 20-50 years to develop following asbestos exposure.
Navy documents tell part of the tale of asbestos use at Hunters Point. According to an Environmental Impact Report issued by the Navy in 1997, asbestos containing materials in the form of thermal system insulation (i.e. insulation on piping, boilers, ducts, fittings, and other heating system components), shingles, tank insulation, and general debris were discovered at Hunters Point. An asbestos survey of 145 buildings identified asbestos in all but six of them. Astoria Metals, which was leasing portions of Hunters Point at the time for ship repair and recycling operations, reported 30,000 lbs. of stored asbestos.
Hunters Point stored large quantities of asbestos-containing materials for building, maintaining, and repairing ships. Many types of Navy ship machinery, including boilers, turbines, cooling condensers, distilling equipment, and pumps were insulated with asbestos. Asbestos packing was used in pumps and pipes, while thousands of asbestos gaskets were used throughout ships and submarines. Many types of naval electrical equipment also contained asbestos. Even equipment such as hoists, anchor windlasses, and laundry machines had asbestos parts.
Veterans and yardbirds who worked at Hunters Point and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma can take steps to protect their family and their future by contacting an attorney at Belluck & Fox, LLP. A nationally-recognized asbestos law firm, we’ve secured millions of dollars on behalf of former yard workers.
Schedule a free case review with Belluck & Fox to find out how we can help you.
- EPA: Hunters Point Naval Shipyard
- Kelsey Finch: Trouble in Paradise: Postwar History of San Francisco’s Hunters Point Neighborhood. An Honors Thesis in Urban Studies, Stanford University.
- Federation of American Scientists, Military Analysis Network: Hunters Point Naval Shipyard
- SFGate: Hunters Point Shipyard tour a peek at $1 billion
- San Francisco Redevelopment Agency: Hunters Point Shipyard Reuse, Environmental Impact Report. Volume I.