For Immediate Release: Monday, June 28, 2021
Contact: Jeff Ruch (510) 213-7028: Kirsten Stade firstname.lastname@example.org
Federal Agency Rules for Treasure Island Whistleblower
Navy Environmental Lawyer Fired for Advocating Radiation & Toxic Safety
Washington, DC — The U.S. Department of Labor has found that the U.S. Navy illegally terminated one of its own lawyers because she stressed the need for additional measures to address radiation and toxic contamination with the potential to impact residents near former naval facilities in California, including San Francisco’s Treasure Island, according to a ruling posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The nearly three-year investigation concluded that the Navy acted in violation of the whistleblower protections within the very federal environmental clean-up laws on which the lawyer advised the Navy.
Shannon Fagan, an environmental attorney with 19 years in practice, began working for the U.S. Navy’s Base Realignment and Closure Program Management Office in June 2017. She had lead cleanup responsibility for five former bases in California undergoing remediation in preparation for civilian conveyance: Treasure Island, Alameda, and Moffett Field in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as Tustin and El Toro in Orange County. During her one-year tenure, the Navy pushed back against her strong recommendations as counsel to –
- Re-review potentially suspect radiological work at Treasure Island done by Tetra-Tech contractors in the face of possible health risks to residents in adjacent housing. The issue of Tetra-Tech falsification of radiological soil samples at the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard has been the subject of criminal convictions and ongoing civil litigation;
- Disclose, delineate and remediate very high levels of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in aquifers under former Navy bases in El Toro and Tustin that also served as sources of drinking water to area residents; and
- Inform potentially affected residents about the true state of environmental conditions at the former bases. Ms. Fagan was discharged one day before the Navy’s public meeting on its cleanup plans for a radiologically impacted portion of Treasure Island.
“Shannon Fagan repeatedly warned the Navy that it was contravening its legal obligations and thereby endangering human health and the environment,” stated PEER General Counsel Paula Dinerstein, noting that the Navy was very concerned that a re-review of the Treasure Island radiological work would further delay its conveyance for local development. “The Department of Labor investigation confirmed that these warnings were the reason that the Navy acted to remove Shannon Fagan from her position overseeing the cleanup of these former bases.”
The Department of Labor finding becomes final and binding in 30 days unless either side appeals. That appeal would trigger a full evidentiary hearing before a Department of Labor administrative law judge. The Navy terminated Ms. Fagan just days before the end of her probationary period.
“The Navy has engaged in a triple whammy of misconduct: first by profoundly polluting the land and water, next by engaging in woefully inadequate cleanups and then by silencing its own professionals who dared to remind it of its legal and moral obligations,” added PEER Pacific Director Jeff Ruch. “This case raises the larger question of whether there is any room for conscientious environmental lawyers to work within the U.S. Navy.”