How much can the body stand?

by tiny/PoorNewsNetwork/POOR Magazine on November 26, 2004

Residents, advocates and scientists speak out against the lies generated by The Health Department studies which gives a fast track to development of the toxic and dangerous Bayview Hunters Point Shipyard

We are opposed to the transfer of parcel A of the hunters point shipyard,” I watched the slight body of Dr. Ahimsa Porter Sumchai, valiant fighter for environmental justice and coporate responsibility tremble as she outlined the serious toxic and radiologic problems of the land parcels at the Bayview hunter Point shipyard slated for Kolonization by The Redevelopment agency and Lennar development Corporation, ” we are asking the health department to conduct further reviews to look more closely at the potential health effects of the proposed transfer and we have questions about the adequacy of the health and environmental docuemtns that have been generated related to the transfers. Let me start by showing you – this map is part of historical radiologic assessment. With that Dr. Sumchai, unfurled a huge color coded map which overwhelmed her small frame.

As my eyes gazed upon the map with its codified lines of red, green and yellow my body became numb and I was transported back to a conversation I wished I had never had to have, “my body can’t withstand more radiation, I am already too weak already and as things are going now I would rather not go on.,” By ‘go on’, my good friend and poet, Barbara G. born and bred “on the hill” as she put it, meaning the Bayview hunters Point Hill, was telling me why she didn’t want to ‘go on’* living*, without both of her breasts due to the breast cancer she definitely related to her life next to the very toxic and environmentally dangerous Bayview Hunters point shipyard. I spent the rest of the conversation telling her why this was nonsense and why she needed to be there for not just herself and her family but all of us as a community, I went on to say so much more but inside my heart I was screaming expletive after expletive at all the corporate entities, government slaves and their masters and anyone else covertly or overtly involved with the kind of ongoing environmental racism and classism that happens and has happened in BVHP for way too many years

Dr. Sumchai pointed to the locations on the map as she spoke, “Parcel E is the biggest and dirtiest parcel on the shipyard, about 174 acres and parcel A landlocks parcel E – the city, federal government and the developers plan to develop on parcel A and the radioligical and other toxicological issues that are on parcel E have not been addressed,”

Perhaps it was the lines that cut through the map which resembled the MRI of my friends cancer wracked body, the depth and glaringly obvious danger of those lines and what they mean to the huge number of children and adults who as the chronicle reported in their Oct 3rd issue from a 10 year long study, “Babies are 2.5 times more likely to die in their first year in Bayview Hunters Point than those in other areas of San Francisco, citing the fact that they lived in homes “overlooking the contaminated remains of the now-closed naval shipyard * a Superfund cleanup site where the military once experimented with radiation.

Dr sumchai continued, “Under the Circla Act there has not been any significant steps taken of the ten steps required on a Circla process for a federal superfund site. One of the big issues related to the transfer – is the fact that there is 46 acre landfill on parcel E immediately adjacent to Parcel A- this landfill is partially capped and in the year 2000 it was on fire, by 2001 there were a series of fires on the base, there were a series of 50 fires in four months and the Navy attempted to conceal the fires,”

Fires!, I screamed inwardly, that kind of serious contamination is
present in third and fourth world cities like Bophal, India,
well-known for its massive 1984 Gas Leak incident caused by the negligence of Union Carbide which killed thousands and has yet to be properly cleaned-up and in much the same way as the Bayview continues to poison its poor residents who have no resources to go elsewhere.

And lest you have doubts about the connection between this
contaminated land and my friends cancer consider a new report, “State of Evidence 2004: What is the Connection Between the Environment and Breast Cancer,” published Oct. 7 by the Breast Cancer Fund and Breast Cancer Action, details evidence from 21 research studies published since February 2003 that link toxins in the environment, including chlorinated chemicals and radiation found in nuclear fallout from 1950 to 1991, to the 90% increase in breast cancer rates in the U.S. during that period.

After Dr. Sumchai was finished speaking she introduced Willie
Ratcliff who specifically brought up the current kolinizers/aka
developers Lennar Development Corporation from Florida who are instrumental in the sudden fast track approval by the City of the obviously dangerous parcels which are unfit to build on because they stand to make millions of dollars if they build, sell and poison 1600 more families who they hope will buy their contaminated homes.

There were several other community members who spoke about the frightening experience of living around this kind of danger and their ongoing fights with the Navy and the City to really clean this up and make it actually habitable including supervisor elect Ross Mirikarimi who has been to Iraq and witnessed similar contamination of the land by Amerikkan coporations only interested in kolinazation, Kapitalism and destruction.

As I walked away from the press conference my friends last words on that phone call kept ringing in my ears, ” I am tired of fighting, for my”

For more journalism on issues of poverty and racism by folks who experience it first-hand go on-line to

Filed under: Bay Area / California