Whales, Nuclear ‘Wessels’ and Ocean Clean-Up

WHALES, NUCLEAR WESSELS AND OCEAN CLEAN-UP
ALAMEDA—Chequered History or Check-Mate?

Alameda—where they keep the Nuclear Wessels, according to Pavel Chekov, in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, 1986

With a flourish of ceremonial shovels, construction began last week on the site of the (closed) U.S. Naval Air Station, on what will become Alameda’s first major market-rate multi-family development in four decades. Alameda Point sits on the North shore of San Francisco Bay, with strategic connections to Oakland, the Sacramento River and the Bay Area.

Manila Bay whale sculpture made entirely from plastic beach waste in Philippines, image courtesy Greenpeace

It will be familiar to vintage Star Trek fans for its connection with whales, nuclear generators and Space. Alameda has tolerated empty lot syndrome since the ‘nineties—vast spaces where appropriate development could enhance the former NAS site, but records of clean-up procedures are causing concern. The Navy contractor’s method of landfill and dumping radio-active soil and ground liquids has been questioned.

Developers for the project assure that testing and re-certification will continue, as old naval buildings and pavement are torn up to make room for the new 70-acre development, known as Site A: it will include 800 residential units, up to 600,000 square feet of commercial space and a ferry terminal that will connect to San Francisco—plus parks and open space.

According to U.S. Navy’s Environmental Coordinator for the Alameda cleanup, Cecily Sabedra:

“Tetra Tech was the contractor who performed environmental investigation and cleanup tasks throughout the former NAS Alameda, including Site A. The Navy’s internal-review safeguards and the regulatory-review process indicate Alameda data are accurate and the work completed to date at Alameda is protective of human health. Quality assurance and quality control measures, including field oversight and data review by Navy personnel and regulatory agencies, have been and continue to be in place at Alameda to verify data are representative of site conditions.”

From Cold War Seaplane Landing to Wildlife Reserve

Old Alameda Naval Air base runways for U.S. fleet flight deck and seaplane landings, now rare bird lagoon

Tetra Tech was deeply involved at another portion of the 2,800-acre Alameda Naval Air Station property, Site 2, which is deemed a toxic Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The station was an active military installation for fleet aviation activities from the 1930s to the 1990s. Former jet runways, and anchorage for Cold War sea planes and Navy submersibles can still be seen.

In Tetra Tech’s 200-page remedial action work plan, submitted to the Navy and other U.S. government agencies in 2013, Site 2 contained radium-226 and other radioactive materials. In the 1940s, workers coated instruments such as dials using a radio-luminescent paint containing the isotope. Rags and paint brushes were then discarded at the site.

Over a period of sixty years, the land had been a dumping ground for other materials like asbestos, pesticides, sandblasting grit, medical waste and tear gas agents. In ‘cleaning’ the area, Tetra Tech bulldozed in a multi-layer soil mix, to cover the old landfill.

Wilderness will Find a Way—Wildlife Move Back In

Osprey landing on rusty light-stand nest to feed young, in former Seaplane Lagoon

Site 2—owned by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs—will remain closed for the ‘foreseeable future’.

Since becoming redundant in the 1990s, Mother Nature has stepped in to reclaim such wasteland: now home to several endangered species of birds. Harbor seals have moved back into the lagoon and this is third year a pair of ospreys have nested on the old light stand at the entrance to Seaplane Lagoon.

After an impasse was reached in 2004 between the U.S. Navy and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (aka Fish & Game) for creation of a national wildlife refuge, the property was offered to the Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.). The V.A. plans to build an outpatient clinic and columbarium on 112 acres of its land, but the other 511 acres of V.A. land will remain undeveloped. The undeveloped area is where egrets and endangered California Least Terns come to nest early April to mid-August each year.

Wild Mountain Lion Migrate Across 101

Baby cougar faces future from her den in Thousand Oaks, Santa Monica mountains

Megalopolis concerns are with a family of cougar kittens in Thousand Oaks, CA.—being monitored/tagged by National Parks Service researchers—where as grown wildcats they will have to cross Highway 101 to find new breeding grounds—the nearest wild forest being several hundred miles to the north. Cougar have had to adapt to urban sprawl before. Most famous is Parks’ Service favorite, “P-22” who crossed several freeways in Santa Monica, headed south into Los Angeles and took up residence in downtown Griffith Park.

He’s still there. What a Cool Cat.

San Francisco’s former military HQ, the Presidio, with its unparalleled view of the Golden Gate Bridge, has become a model for native plant species and habitat restoration since 1994. That year, the U.S. military machine turned its back on war and handed the land over to the National Parks Service. It subsequently created the Presidio Trust which now oversees 80% of the park. Here endangered and indigenous plant life is being nurtured back to profusion by Parks’ botanists, with a little nightly help from vole, gopher, racoon, fox and coyote. The bears left a long time ago—ages before it was a military stronghold.

Chernobyl nuclear hazard sign after April 26, 1986 explosion blanketed Europe in radio-active fog for a week


Encouragingly, wildlife in Chernobyl, a former 50,000-population density town in Ukraine within a 1,000-sq.mile forest (4300km2 Chernobyl Exclusion Zone) are moving through the irradiated landscape in droves, and showing little sign of becoming mutants. European research teams have been tracking population growth of wolves, bear, mountain lion and multiple migrating birds for over a decade, and proclaim so far no adverse genetic change.

Crop Circles Echo a Nuclear Warning

Nuclear warning by crop circle? Latest to appear in Wiltshire field near Stonehenge, drone shot courtesy Nick Bull

Even our crop circling Alien friends seem concerned for our welfare. The latest—July 8th, 2018—depicting a nuclear device—appeared overnight in unharvested wheat in Coneybury Hill, near Stonehenge, Wiltshire. Whereas Salisbury farmers were formerly stressed over public trespass and crop trampling, they now tolerate drone fly-overs and crop circle photography has taken an upswing.

There are positive aspects to our human concern for proliferating the planet with our own waste. As we become aware of our past destructive habits, like dumping plastic in the ocean—the city of New York only stopped dumping municipal waste by barge into the Atlantic in 1992—we discover alternative methods of clean-up.

Within the last five years Woods Hole, Massachusetts marine microbiologists have recorded a reduction in marine plastic waste in world oceans.

They are convinced it is being eaten.

Leave it to the Micro-Plankton
NOAA has recorded a massive 90% drop in ocean pollution statistics worldwide since 2011, declaring there is no Pacific garbage patch.

Marine bacteriologists are convinced, however, that, as plastic degrades through sunlight and the wave action of salt water into the tiniest fragments, this plastic confetti becomes the preferred diet of micro-organisms who attach to such clustered ‘reefs’ of food, extracting toxins in their digestion.

Casualty on Huntington Beach—at least he pecked his way through the bag

”Plastic-eating bacteria help explain why the amount of debris in the ocean has levelled off, despite continued pollution. But researchers don’t yet know whether their digestion produces harmless by-products, or whether it might introduce toxins into the food chain.”
Tracy Mincer, Marine Microbiologist Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

If NOAA’s “missing 90%” of microscopic plastic fragments in the oceans is being eaten—mostly by bacteria and other microbes—these little microscopic helpers will continue to eat the plastic. If we can reduce the amount of plastic going into the oceans, via our beaches, they may eventually eat it all up.

Wouldn’t that be a world initiative worth achieving?

Seattle and Starbucks have banned the use of plastic utensils and cups; and Hawai’i has agreed to ban all commercial sunscreens as of January 2021, to help slow coral reef decay.

If we continue with responsible water cleanup worldwide—as some humanitarian philanthropists are currently showing the way—we ‘oldies’ may emerge from the “Plastic Age” unscathed, sooner than our grandchildren predict.

Then we, the guilty, messy generation, can turn the tables on our former selves and become our own success story.
©2018 Siderealview

Explore posts in the same categories: Animal kingdom, Climate, environment, Ocean, water, writing, muse, inspiration

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