By Elena Belsky
Former Hamilton Air
Force Base (HAFB) in Novato is a jumble of issues and problems. The toxic clean
up and re-use of Hamilton is complex and will be continuing for years, because
of the magnitude and scope of contamination. What follows is a sampling of the
various, ongoing issues and bizarreness that encompasses HAFB.
Coastal Post Finally Gets Access To Document
The April Coastal Post ran an expos, entitled "Regional Board Joins Army Cover Up At Hamilton," describing how the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) refused this reporter access to a public document, apparently falling in line behind the Army's determination to limit public access to public information. In a turn of events, about one month after the April Coastal Post article, the Regional Board sent this reporter a letter, admitting error in denying access to the document in question: "Board staff has reviewed its response to this request and has decided that the document should have been released." Subsequently, the Army officially released the report less than six days after the Regional Board letter. Interesting timing.
Multitude Of Samples Taken.
In March, locals around Hamilton noticed the Army Corps of Engineers spending several days taking soil samples from all over the Army base.
One subject of speculation has been basewide contamination of DDTsÉ for which the Army so far has refused to acknowledge responsibility. Preliminary research, last year, done by Friends of Novato Creek, uncovered aerial and homeowner photos of historic, basewide flooding including adjacent properties. Transportation of toxics via flooding is a very real possibility.
No information has yet been released as to the purpose or nature of the March major sampling event-local residents are looking forward to reviewing the data.
Wetlands Restoration-Who's Doing What?
The Army will release a series of environmental review and toxic waste clean up documents within the next few months; these are critical steps in the proposed Hamilton Wetland Restoration project. Each of these documents must meet with regulatory approval for the project to continue to the next step: Final Feasibility Study for the Coastal Salt Marsh (historically high in toxics); Finding of Suitability for Early Transfer (meaning the state will receive the property from the Army prior to full clean up of toxics); and the Record of Decision/Remedial Action Plan (which details the what toxic clean up work needs to be completed). The documents will hopefully be available for public review at the South Novato Library and at the Army BRAC library on Hamilton - call 883-6386 for an appointment.
Local Community Residents Excluded
Bel Marin Keys is a community of 3000 residents living next to Hamilton property, and certainly the largest single stakeholder in the area. Only they do not have a seat on the board the Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) for former Hamilton Air Force Base. The charter of the RAB states clearly that all stakeholders in the area of influence affected by a base closure shall be included on the RAB.
For two years running, a representative endorsed by the Community Service District and the Bel Marin Keys Homeowners Association, Sue Lattanzio, Director of Friends of Novato Creek, has applied on behalf of the Bel Marin Keys community. Ms. Lattanzio was denied the position the first year, then the second year was told that it was "wrong timing" even though BMK had a seat on the RAB that had been vacant for years. At the April RAB meeting, the Army presented their list of four individuals-ALL from the New Hamilton subdivision-two "others" were considered, but the Army refused to name them. Discussion ensued, but no new members were chosen. Broad representation from all communities is important for a balanced review of the Base Restoration plans and documents-it is the right time to be inclusive of active people and communities.