Contaminated Lands

Types of contaminated lands include closed and active landfills, federal Superfund sites, state cleanup program sites, leaking underground storage tanks, military cleanup sites, and California Department of Toxic Substances Control sites. For many of these, multiple agencies share oversight of cleanup and monitoring.


Photo credit: Todd Lappin

In the ART Subregional Project area, most of the landfills are located near the shoreline, or even form the current shoreline itself where they were historically placed as Bay fill. Many closed landfills have been converted to shoreline park and recreation areas. The other types of contaminated lands can be found across the entire project area, with concentrations of these sites in the former industrial areas of Emeryville, West Oakland, and Downtown Oakland.

Key Findings

Contaminated lands are vulnerable to sea level rise and storm events that could flood or cause groundwater intrusion of these sites. Temporary or permanent surface flooding, erosive tidal or wave energy, and elevated groundwater levels could cause the release of hazardous substances with potentially significant consequences on public health and the environment.

Multiple agencies and databases track contaminated sites differently, making it difficult to understand their location and condition. To address this, agencies that regulate or manage contaminated lands should establish agreements to use consistent data collection and management methods, and to develop and keep current a centralized information system with critical emergency and adaptation planning information.


West Winton Landfill. Photo credit: BCDC

Due to technical challenges, environmental risks, and funding issues, some contaminated sites are likely to be remediated in place, making them vulnerable to storm event flooding and rising groundwater until cleanup is complete. Most contaminated lands are privately owned and many are not appropriate for redevelopment, and there are few financial incentives to remediate these sites. This creates a situation in which there are no regulatory triggers or funding mechanisms to initiate planning and prioritizing sites for clean-up with consideration for sea level rise and storm event impacts. Where property owners cannot be found or do not have the necessary resources, the cleanup process is delayed and public funds are the only source of financing. Studies of individual sites or clusters of sites to better understand the timing and degree of vulnerability and consequences would support development of remediation efforts that are designed, funded, permitted, and prioritized for cleanup in a manner that addresses sea level rise, storm events, and elevated groundwater impacts.

Project Findings and Materials

For more information:

  • Lindy Lowe
  • 415-352-3642