Thank you for this concise analysis Dr. Bhatia. I hope you recall your experience as head of the Environmental Health Division of the San Francisco Department of Public Health in 2004 when local communities were besieged by adverse health impacts due to the departments support of residential development on the federal Superfund site at the Hunters Point Shipyard.
In your plan to reopen California and emerge from sheltering in place you emphasize the imperative to advance public discussion on how we proceed from shelter at home orders that were “decisive and precautionary” in the face of uncertainty about our capacity to meet a medical response. Additionally you state “We take these positions as physicians deeply committed to protecting health, as health scientists viewing events critically, and as former deputy health officers of San Francisco who are well aware of the responsibilities and challenges of public servants.”
In recognizing the inadvertent consequences of shelter at home orders you cite deferred health care, long term unemployment, educational inequities and social isolation as drivers of policy and decision making that include “a calculus for balancing the effects of Covid-19 on health and health care systems with other social objectives. This is not the first time you have taken leadership as a public health official on advancing social, economic and political “objectives” over your mandate to protect public health and the environment.
Let me remind you that in 2005, as SFDPH Environmental Director, you took a series of steps to minimize the impacts of community exposure to tons of asbestos and heavy metal laden dust generated by the grading of the Hunters Point hilltop in preparation for residential development SFDPH was incentivized to support by way of Article 31 of the Health Code that allows the department to generate revenue from earth moving activities at a federal Superfund site. I provided public comment at the October 2004 meeting of the Health Commission opposing the departments adoption of an ordinance that codifies a conflict of interest between a corrupt developer and the cities health department. You left SFDPH in a cloud in 2009 after the San Francisco Board of Supervisors conducted hearings on clear ethical violations documented in the 2009 Superior Court Civil Grand Jury report on the Hunters Point Shipyard.
The federal Superfund site at the Hunters Point Shipyard contains an industrial landfill — Parcel E-2 — that is also designated a federal Superfund site. In 2000 that landfill caught on fire and smoldered underground for weeks. In press statements you minimized the public health impacts of the landfill fire and subtly suggested cardiopulmonary symptoms reported to ERs and urgent cares by nearby residents were the result of “mass hysteria”. In 2007 a unanimous vote was taken by the San Francisco Board of Education calling for halting residential development at the federal Superfund site and Supervisor Chris Daly called for hearings on the matter.
You signed a letter that is on file at SFDPH along with Health Director Mitch Katz, John Balmes, MD ( a paid consultant for Lennar Developers, Amy Brownell P.E. directed to Thomas Sinks of the CDC attesting to the safety of these exposures. That document includes a statement that asbestos exposures at the level reported ( greater than 60,000 fibers per unit) could be tolerated for up to 7 years without health effects or need for testing. Jeffrey Klausner, MD played an active role in minimizing these toxic impacts on a low income community of color with the cities highest childhood population and one of the California Air Resources Board’s highest rankings on the CalEnviroScreen.
The Hunters Point Community Biomonitoring Program was funded by the Packard Foundation in October 2019 and licensed by the Medical Board of California to offer voluntary low cost urinary toxicology screenings for residents and workers on and adjacent to the federal Superfund site at the Hunters Point Shipyard. The findings of HP Biomonitoring’s pilot investigation of 25 residents and workers now proves you wrong and places the City and County of San Francisco in a position of extreme liability given the 100% detection of soil elements, heavy metals and radionuclides proven to be present in shipyard soil and the asbestos laden rock graded during the years of your tenure as Environmental Director for DPH in the bodies of all those tested to date.
I am including an archive of information to bring you up to date on advances in biomonitoring and testing. It is clear you have not learned the lessons of your past!
My response to the article authored by Rajiv Bhatia MD on Medium titled A Step-by-Step Plan to Reopen California was deleted from the comments section. It appears to have had such a traumatic and truthful impact that today ALL four comments to his article were deleted from Medium.