But getting rid of the chemical is difficult because it remains in the ecosystem for generations. “It’s a massive health problem that affects every man, woman and child and thousands of people who fish the bay for food,” said Greg Karras of Communities for a Better Environment, a San Francisco environmental group. “If Oakland and San Francisco can take the lead on this and say here’s what we’re specifically going to do to eliminate dioxin, it will be a model for the nation and the industrial world.”
If both cities approve the resolutions, there are plans to form a regional task force made up of industry leaders, environmentalists and regulatory agencies. The problems facing everyone from scientists to government officials are: How to get rid of dioxin and how much dioxin is harmful?
The regional task force would encourage businesses to find alternatives to materials that emit dioxin when they are banned. Another hope is to eliminate the stuff that produces dioxin… After decades of widespread use of now-banned herbicides and un-regulated industrial processes, scientists believe that all people have some dioxin stored in fatty tissue, said Dr. Rajiv Bhatia of the San Francisco Department of Public Health…
But experts differ over how much dioxin our bodies can handle and what the worst dioxin-polluting culprits are…Valeria Hunter, an Oakland mother of four teenagers, does not care about the squabble over who is to blame for the dioxin poisoning of the fish she catches in the bay. She just wants the contamination to stop. “They’ve got to do something about the pollution,” she said last week, casting her line off the Seventh Street Pier.
Hunter has been fishing the bay for 15 years. Her kid’s fish. Her 8-year-old nephew Alphonso Nears fishes. So does her husband, William McElroy. The family fishes a couple of times a week. One moonlit night, the family caught 13 sharks, which ended up on the family dinner table. “I love to fish. Love to eat it. Love everything about it,” Hunter said. “But now you’ve got to limit how much you eat, especially if you’re pregnant or breast-feeding. They got that big ol’ yellow sign out there warning people.”
State and local regulatory groups put up signs warning people in six languages to limit the amount of fish consumed out of the bay to two meals a month. But most of the 1,000 or more people who fish the bay eat a lot more fish than that, according to studies conducted by Communities for a Better Environment and two other environmental groups. The studies, which surveyed the fishing habits of hundreds of bay anglers from 1993 to 1997, reached similar conclusions: Most people who fish the bay eat their catch. Most anglers are people of color—the Richmond Laotian community, Chinese Americans who live in San Francisco and African Americans from Oakland and Richmond. Many are low-income.
“The CEOs of the oil companies don’t eat fish out of the bay. They fly-fish in British Columbia and Montana,” said Karras of Communities for a Better Environment.
—Laura Hamburg, Bay Area Focus, San Francisco Chronicle, February 12, 1999
Watch where you walk. There’s a lot of geese and geese poop at the park.
History Note. The entire waterfront along the Oakland Estuary and harbor has undergone significant change since the mid-1800s. The first wharves in Oakland were apparently built by Horace W. Carpentier back in 1853. In 1852 he had acquired a 37-year use of the waterfront and exclusive rights to erect wharves and docks from the town of Oakland. He was to build three wharves initially, one at Main Street, one at either F or G Street, and one at E Street (all of these are in this general vicinity). The action was denounced as illegal and dishonest by many people but nevertheless was approved by the board. He reported completion of the wharves on July 12, 1853. In March 25, 1854, the City of Oakland was incorporated by the State of California and Mr. Carpentier became the cities first mayor.
An original Oakland Pier (basically railroad trestles) was built in 1863 to handle both the passenger and cargo needs of the Central Pacific Railroad. Six years later, in 1869, it was extended out to 6,900 feet. Then, on January 6, 1871, the area’s largest wharf was opened, the two-mile-long Oakland Long Wharf (which almost reached Goat Island, today’s Yerba Buena Island). Transcontinental trains of the Central Pacific (as well as local passenger trains) ran right out to the end of the pier where they met the various sailing ships of the day.
With the completion of the Long Wharf (which ran parallel to the Oakland Pier), major changes were in store for the older pier and the adjacent lands. The trestle pier was filled in and covered by dirt creating an earth embankment which reached out nearly two miles into the bay. This embankment, called the Oakland Mole, opened on January 22, 1882. Once the Mole was opened, the use of the Long Wharf was restricted to freight traffic while passengers were moved down to a new Oakland Pier at the end of the Mole. The Central Pacific (later Southern Pacific) Railroad, which owned both the Wharf and the Mole, continued its industrial development of the waterfront area near the northern end of the Inner Harbor and the Outer Harbor. Although the Long Wharf would cease to handle freight in 1918, the Mole and the Oakland Pier would continue to be used until 1958. The Oakland Pier itself was demolished in 1966.
Another huge project and pier was that of the Key Route Ferry which started in 1903 and paralleled today’s eastern approach to the Bay Bridge. A rock causeway led to a wooden trestle and then to the pier holding the ferry slips and terminal; total length was again over two miles. In 1933 a fire destroyed part of the terminal and pier but it was rebuilt. More permanent was the danger posed by the completion of the lower deck of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in 1939 (which carried two tracks for interurban trains). The ferries were no longer needed (although they continued to haul workers, and then visitors, to the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in 1939 and 1940). The end of the fair saw the end of the Key System.
Interesting to me are the early day stories which tell of fish being caught off of the Oakland Pier, the Long Wharf, the Oakland Mole and other piers and wharves found in the area. Most amazing are the number of salmon and steelhead that evidently were caught in these waters every fall. Also apparently common were smelt, perch and sharks. The jacksmelt, perch and sharks are still there, but you would have to be very lucky to hook a salmon or steelhead today. A few articles —
“During the (eighteen) sixties, seventies, and eighties, thousands of so-called ‘grilse’ or ‘salmon trout’ were caught by hook and line by fishermen fishing off ‘Meiggs Wharf,’ from the wharfs all along the San Francisco waterfront, and off the Oakland Mole. On any Sunday during the fall months of these years hundreds of fishermen could be seen all along the wharfs of San Francisco Bay and the Oakland Mole fishing for steelhead trout. The rig used by these fishermen was similar to that used by smelt fishermen, being a bamboo cane pole, cork float, and hooks baited with mussel, pile or angle worms, and fresh shrimps.”
—Walter R. Welch, Trout Fishing in California Today And Fifty Years Ago, California Fish and Game Magazine, January, 1929
West Oakland — The murky mornings of the past few days, while disagreeable to humanity in general, have been hailed with delight by the anglers on the Long Wharf, and big catches of fish, such as smelt, rock-cod, rom-cod, etc., are reported by local fishermen. The waters about the bay in the neighborhood of the Wharf and Mole still swarm with small sharks, and to a great extent interfere with anglers. These young monsters of the deep bite at anything from a carpet tack to a railroad spike, and the fishermen’s angle and grub worm bait have no chance whatever. The young sharks, in several instances, are reported to have swallowed the hooks and then bit the line in two.
—Oakland Evening Tribune, August 12, 1885
The Old Long Wharf — The Oakland Long Wharf as it was called, was an early institution on the western waterfront. It started from about where the Albers dock is now located at the foot of Seventh Street and ran out into the Bay until deep water was reached on a line with the present Key Route slips. To the old Long Wharf came all kinds of ships, but mainly sail driven craft. The wharf was a shipping point for sugar as well as other types of general cargo. The tall-masted ships, in or outbound to the ports of the South Seas would line in alongside the bulkheads and with whips rigged to their yardarms would sling the various shipments aboard or onto the dock.
The wharf was supposed to be forbidden territory to small boys and fishermen but many were the times when the youth of Oakland sneaked out there and dropped their lines overboard. The watchmen were tolerant as long as the fishermen did not get in the way of the dockworkers.
In those days sturgeon were plentiful in the Bay but they were hard for the average youngster to catch or land. Then one bright genius conceived the idea of attaching a stout cord, with hooks and bait, to a Standard Oil coal oil can. With this as a float the largest sturgeon found it impossible to sound and break the tackle after being hooked.