Baykeeper Update

The Bay Area’s Most Toxic Sites are Vulnerable to Sea Level Rise

Numerous industrial facilities—including oil refineries, shipyards, and manufacturing plants—surround San Francisco Bay, as well as over 1,000 inactive sites contaminated with hazardous waste.

Many of these sites already release pollution into the Bay. Sea level rise will amplify the contamination risk from these toxic sites. As Bay waters rise in the coming decades, flooding will inundate toxic sites along the shore and allow pollutants to leach into the Bay and along shorelines.

One polluted hotspot at risk of flooding is the infamous Hunters Point site in San Francisco, which is contaminated with radioactive waste from nuclear tests in the 1950s and is now surrounded in controversy over falsified safety test results.

Another example is the Brooklyn Basin redevelopment project in Oakland, contaminated with PCBs, heavy metals, and other harmful compounds. If the Bay rises to the level where the site becomes flooded, the residual pollution could pose a major threat to residents and wildlife.

But cities and local agencies can take concrete steps now to prevent sea level rise from causing widespread pollution in the Bay.

Baykeeper’s Staff Scientist recently identified the Bay Area shoreline sites most vulnerable to sea level rise and created a map that’s available on the Baykeeper ShoreView website. And we’re now advocating for key recommendations to protect these sites and prepare the Bay for rising tides.

Sea level rise will have a major impact on San Francisco Bay. The key is to prioritize solutions for the biggest vulnerable locations, like toxic hotspots—to protect the health of the Bay ecosystem and the people who depend on it.   

Bay vulnerabilities to Sea Level Rise