Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Mare Island cleanup to convert many old buildings on the former military base into offices

03/08/2005 07:48:09 AM

Mare Island cleanup
Another phase in getting rid of what Navy left

By Chris G. Denina/Times-Herald, Vallejo

Vallejo's master developer for Mare Island plans to convert many old buildings on the former military base into offices.

The developer wants to transform some empty sites into new neighborhoods, and it aims to convert some spots into tourist attractions.

First, however, the company needs to clean up sites contaminated with toxic chemicals left behind by the U.S. Navy.

Starting in April, Lennar Mare Island LLC plans its next round of cleanup work, this time removing PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, from dozens of industrial buildings.

"Environmental cleanup drives everything on the island," said Lennar spokesman Jason Keadjian, noting that once sites are cleaned, the company can develop the land.

Lennar's latest cleanup project is among a handful of similar jobs being performed around Mare Island, including work on a contaminated landfill and a contaminated rifle range. But the 650-acre Lennar reuse project is the first to redevelop property for civilian use. Lennar has completed cleanup of some areas and has made progress reusing the naval shipyard.

The company recently began construction on its batch of some 1,400 planned homes. Lennar so far has sold a handful of properties to businesses. And the company has plans to renovate older buildings for commercial use.

Before any sites are reused, agencies including the state Department of Toxic Substances Control must sign off on the cleanup.

In the case of the PCBs, much of the contamination was from such electrical equipment as transformers, said Myrna Hayes, community co-chair of Mare Island Restoration Advisory Board. The group helps oversee the reuse of the old base.

The Navy used oil containing PCBs in equipment in many buildings, Hayes said. While some lubricants were replaced with non-PCB oils, some of the toxic chemicals have seeped into the ground and contaminated the soil, she said. The danger is that the chemicals may leak into water systems, she said.

Yet some sites may be left untreated - at least for now, she said. Some transformers still are in use and may sit atop soil contaminated with PCBs. Those units will be fenced off, and the contamination will be noted in the property deed, she said.

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