Emeryville Transit Center developer Wareham Development responds to allegations by Richmond Mayor
Wareham Development is defending itself from accusations by Richmond Mayor Tom Butt who has alleged them of “a form of toxic dumping” in his city. Wareham admits it temporarily moved clean commercial fill soil from their forthcoming Emeryville Transit Center project without proper permitting to accommodate the construction of a parking garage that is part of the project. Wareham is known in Emeryville for their many properties including EmeryStation and their Greenway property.
Wareham spokesperson Andrew Neilly is defending the decision of the company as an oversight and noted they are already moving to have the soil removed from their land in Richmond which was the plan all along. “The soil was temporarily moved offsite quite simply because the development area was not big enough. This is not a conspiracy.” He noted that this “clean commercial fill” is very commonly used in commercial projects of this nature. The soil was intended to be reintegrated back into garage portion of the project as infill.
The story broke when neighbors of a Wareham owned site in Richmond noticed the three mounds of soil that were covered in tarps and labeled as having PCB’s. The site is a mostly industrial area of Richmond on East Richmond Avenue and Canal Blvd but near some recently developed housing. A neighbor posted a picture on a NextDoor.com thread and the story was picked up by Mayor Butt who happens to live nearby.
“Emeryville took Pixar out of Richmond & literally shipped back to us toxic soil…like a real kick in the teeth.”https://t.co/ZjORBlrbrD
— Darwin BondGraham (@DarwinBondGraha) September 30, 2016
“To classify this as ‘dumping’ would imply that this was done secretively and that we had no intention of coming back for it which is not accurate. To classify this is ‘toxic’ would not be responsible.” noted Neilly. The Transit Center site is a former Westinghouse Factory and a site that has been “extensively” remediated. The clean fill was trucked in in 2002 to backfill the site following the remediation. The Commercial fill has been tested three times since then and deemed appropriate for off-site storage and re-use as clean infill by the agencies overseeing the project according to Neilly.
The three mounds of earth were secured behind a fence, clearly labeled, secured by tarps and moved under the supervision of an environmental consultant. Wareham concedes that they did not file for the appropriate permitting and that this was an oversight on their part. “It would be reckless of us to pollute our own land.” noting that they did not know a permit was needed to utilize their own private property for temporary storage of this clean commercial fill.
Neilly notes that the level of PCB’s in the soil as less than 2 PPM which is significantly below the threshold of 25 PPM that is the standard is set by the Regional Water Quality Control Board for off-site storage and re-use. Neilly also notes that Wareham has probably “cleaned up more soil than any other developer or municipality in the East Shore over the last 40 years”. Wareham, ironically, had to apply for a permit with The City of Richmond to remove the soil which is scheduled to be done by the end of this week.
Is Butt “making a mountain over a molehill”?
Thomas King Butt, was elected Mayor of Richmond in 2014 after serving as Vice Mayor twice and has been on city council since 1995. The quibble seamed to dig up some old wounds between the cities that stems back to 2000. A rivalry over Pixar Animation studios who left Richmond in 2000 to expand to Emeryville. Richmond was accused of being unresponsive to Pixar and that this expedited their departure. An accusation Butt addressed in a 2008 forum titled Myth of Pixar Loss Exploded noting “They left because Richmond would not work with them on their plans for a corporate campus and Emeryville was only too happy to oblige”. Emeryville is often accused of giving up too much to accommodate Pixar having demolished the architecturally significant Del Monte Factory [NOTE: This factory was not demolished specifically to accommodate Pixar] and creating an impenetrable “super block” that alienates residents. Butt noted in this Richmond Confidential piece that his city is battling a sort of “Wild West” reputation that allows some to act with impunity.
Wareham has a reputation of being good corporate citizens within the city and donate to many charitable, educational and cultural causes including ECAP, the Emeryville Celebration of the Arts, Emery Unified School District and is a founding partner of the Emery Go-Round among others. Almost everyone I’ve spoken with consider them to have integrity and are responsive which seems to contradict what Butt has alleged.