Resident Nyese Joshua is upset to the point of tears. For years she has complained about health problems she and others believe are associated with redevelopment work at the former Navy shipyard.
The activists used the Freedom of Information Act to get thousands of e-mails between the regional EPA office, the San Francisco Department of Public Health and the Lennar Corporation, the developer of the project. The community organizations assert the e-mails show a pattern of cooperation and collusion designed to conceal the health threats of asbestos-laden dust.
In one e-mail excerpt from November 2009, an EPA administrator writes a Lennar consultant, "Here are the talking points that we will be presenting at this afternoon's meeting. You've been a careful reviewer of my language in the past -- do you see any problems in how I've worded these points?"
"They were looking back at the data and saying, 'Well, if we use this part of the data, it looks good and if we use that part, it looks bad. We want to make it look as good as possible when we present it to the community,'" said environmental scientist Wilma Subra.
Regional Administrator for the EPA Jared Blumenfeld says, "I take these allegations very seriously. Today, I initiated a comprehensive review of the entire matter."
The redevelopment of the old naval shipyard has been decades in the making. Former Mayor Gavin Newsom once said there is nothing more important to the city's economic future than that project. The redevelopment of the shipyard is a federal Superfund site and is an ambitious project expected to create a neighborhood of more than 10,000 homes, new businesses, and perhaps a football stadium. The plan has gone through years of public debate.
A city Health Department official who was apparently planning to testify at a meeting in 2006, sent a draft of her remarks in an e-mail to two Lennar employees saying, "Go ahead and change any way you want. I may change some of it back, but I'm willing to read your versions."
"They were dismissing this community, they were dismissing single mothers, elderly people, and children, for the sake of the dollar -- that is the bottom line," said Joshua.
The Health Department sent a written response saying they are looking into the issues. As for the Lennar corporation, the president was very blunt in his statement stating, "Nothing in these e-mails suggests any data was hidden, altered or covered up." And he says the asbestos levels at the shipyard are not harmful.