South Bay Asbestos Superfund Site

The Alviso district of San Jose, California is now at risk of exposure to asbestos, which encompasses the entire community of over 2,100 residents. The type of asbestos contaminating the area is in the presence of serpentine rocks, which were mined for hundreds of years to produce chrysotile asbestos. Chrysotile asbestos was the most common and commercially asbestos mineral and accounts for about 95% of the asbestos found in American facilities. Naturally occurring asbestos such as this pose a threat to public health, as asbestos has been classified as a known human carcinogen by state, federal, and international agencies. Serpentine is California’s official state rock, and it is present in 42 of 58 counties. Mesothelioma attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm warn the public of the dangers of naturally occurring asbestos. If the rock is disturbed and the fibers become airborne, residents are at risk of inhaling asbestos. The inhalation or ingestion of asbestos leads to the development of serious and often fatal cancers, such as mesothelioma and lung cancer.

An exposure assessment and risk evaluation summary report was issued recently by the EPA concerning the South Bay asbestos site, which was put on the National Priorities List in 1984. The period between initial exposure to asbestos and the consequent development of any related illnesses is between 20 and 50 years, so follow-up testing is required every five years to determine health risk.

Portions of the site served as dumping areas for over 30 years. Three landfills located within the site boundaries (the Santos Landfill, the Leslie Salt Landfill, and the Sainte Claire Corporation Landfill) received asbestos wastes from an asbestos-cement pipe manufacturing plant, located 4 miles south of the site, which operated from 1953 until 1982. Residents reportedly used waste asbestos pipe to drain excess water from their properties before curbs and gutters were installed. Several areas may have been filled with asbestos-containing soils transported in by residents to raise the elevation of their property and to improve flood protection.

As a result of heavy rains in 1983, Coyote Creek flooded the site. The City of San Jose built a levee around the town to pump out the floodwater. The levee material was taken from the Raisch Quarry in southern San Jose and was later found to contain asbestos. Asbestos also was found in the Guadalupe River levee, the ring levee, and in surface soils around the town. Approximately 1,700 people live in Alviso. Most water is provided to South Bay residents through public supply systems that draw groundwater from the deep aquifer. The majority of private wells draw water from the less-protected shallow aquifer. The ring levee lies within the 100-year flood plain of the Guadalupe River and was built on portions of wetland areas adjacent to Alviso. The levee also abuts wetland areas next to a National Wildlife Refuge.

As previously mentioned, studies indicated that asbestos became airborne due to disturbance of naturally occurring asbestos in the soil, which was caused primarily by heavy truck traffic. The initial cleanup of the site took place in 1983-87, and has been ongoing ever since. The final cleanup remedies selected to address contamination of the entire site include paving the asbestos-contaminated truck and industrial yards, wet-sweeping Alviso streets monthly, removing asbestos debris, installing landfill covers, implementing deed restrictions, and maintaining and monitoring the site. Four truck yards have since been paved, and maintenance inspections and repairs take place on an annual basis. The City of San Jose is wet-sweeping the streets on a monthly basis.

Removing asbestos wastes, paving of the lots, and removing the asbestos-contaminated ring levee have reduced the potential of exposure to contaminated materials at the South Bay Asbestos Area site. Online information about the companies that are potentially responsible for generating, transporting, or disposing of the hazardous waste found at the site is not available. For more information regarding the South Bay Superfund Site, contact the EPA Site Manager:

Eric Yunker 415.972.3159 Yunker.Eric@epamail.epa.goc Mail Code SFD73 73 Hawthorne Street San Franscisco, CA 94105

Asbestos attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm urge those South Bay residents to gain information on this issue. No amount of asbestos exposure is safe in the human body. If you suspect exposure and consequent development of disease, contact one of our skilled lung cancer lawyers today for a free legal consultation.

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