The Barron Park Association

Green Team / Environmental Issues

 

The Green Team/Environmental committee has two parts:

1)  The BP Green Team is not part of the BPA, but is an independent organization, a component of a city-wide, City co-sponsored project to organize Green Teams in neighborhoods throughout Palo Alto.

The Palo Alto Neighborhood Green Teams were launched in 2008 to foster education, dialog and awareness about environmental issues and identify, create and implement sustainable environmental solutions in the neighborhoods of Palo Alto.  Barron Park was the first neighborhood Green Team to be launched.

In its short life, the Barron Park Green Team has been very active and organized a number of events in Barron Park that have attracted participation by many local residents, including plantings along Matadero Creek, Bike Palo Alto, and Green tours of homes in Barron Park with solar, passive solar and resource conserving features. In 2012, the Green Team sponsored a talk by City staff on non-toxic housecleaning products and a talk by Barron Park historian, Doug Graham, on the creeks of Barron Park (history and pre-history).  The Barron Park Association has provided some funding for these events. The times and places for meetings of the Barron Park Green team are on our Community Calendar.

For more information, visit the Barron Park Green Team web page at  http://www.pagreenteams.org/content/barron-park  or contact: Lynnie Melena  email

2) Environmental Issues. The BPA Environmental committee is the community’s watchdog when it comes to the possibility of noxious and hazardous materials entering the Creeks and groundwater in the neighborhood and affecting the air we breathe from industrial activity in the Research Park, the VA or from other sources.

Groundwater: We are monitoring the ongoing efforts in cleaning up the contamination from volatile organic solvents that had leaked from underground tanks at a dozen or so companies in the Stanford Research Park and reached Matadero Creek and the groundwater under Barron Park.

History: When this was first revealed, about 25 years ago, Barron Park Association members Bob Moss and Inge Harding-Barlow were instrumental in leading a vigorous effort that succeeded in persuading State officials to force the companies responsible for the contamination to begin a long term cleanup action. Thanks to them and others who taken an active role over the years, including Marianne Strickfadden and Doug Moran, the cleanup has produced positve results for Barron Park. Cleaning up Matadero Creek was the first step, and was the quickest to be completed. An aeration system was turned on in 1993 and shut down in 1997 when the clean up goals were achieved. Cleaning up the subsurface groundwater is more difficult. Many vertical extraction wells were drilled around sites in the Research Park and also in several places along the bikepath in Bol Park and in the Barron Park neighborhood. The clean up process involves pumping out the contaminated water in the wells, removing the chemicals from the water in treatment systems and discharging the cleansed water back into the Creek.

Current Status: In 2008, the level of contamination in the shallow groundwater everywhere under Barron Park dropped below California drinking water standards. All of the extraction wells in the neighborhood have been shut down now, though a large number in the Research Park, where the leaking underground tanks were located, and on the VA property are still in operation. Much of the water that flows into Matadero Creek during the summer months comes from water discharged from treatment systems, and so we are monitoring the amounts discharged and the operation of the treatment systems to provide information to residents.

Air:  We are also concerned with the possibility of toxic fumes being released from industrial and laboratory operations in the Research Park. This issue could affect a wide swath of the neighborhood, but is a particular concern to the residents close to the Research Park. Toxic fumes can cause acute as well as long term chronic effects.

History: Toxic gas release was first recognized as a potentially serious issue in Barron Park following afire in the plating shop at Varian (now Communications and Power Industries, or CPI) in 1986. The fire spewed a tower of toxic hydrochloric gases. This incident was followed soon afterward by several other accidents in the Research Park that released toxic fumes.  In 2006, an industrial accident in CPI’s plating shop, which is located adjacent to some Barron Park residents’ homes, released a cloud of toxic nitric acid fumes that drifted into the neighborhood.

Currently CPI on Hansen Way uses and stores more of these highly toxic materials than any other facility in Palo Alto. As a consequence of a concerted and collective protest action by a group of residents, backed by the Board of the Barron Park Association, the City of Palo Alto changed its zoning requirements in 2007, restricting the location of hazardous material sites like CPI near residental zones. The City also commissioned a study in 2010 of amortizing (phasing out over time) the use and storage of large amounts of extremely hazardous chemicals at this location.

Current Status:  In 2012, CPI announced that they had reduced the amounts of the extremely hazardous materials they have on site. Nevertheless, residents, whose homes in the neighborhood were there long before any industrial properties were constructed adjacent to them in the Research Park, are of the view that a hazardous material site like CPI has NO PLACE so close to residential property.  In June of 2012, the City Council authorized an independent study be carried out by an outside consultant of the risks to residents from the hazardous materials now at CPI and to provide advice to the City on ‘best practices’ for updating its zoning codes for such situations, urging it be completed within 6 months. As of September, 2012, the contract for this study has not yet been awarded.

For more information, contact: Art Liberman email