U.S. Customs to Inspect Big Rigs with Potentially Hazardous Cargo in West Oakland

 “We’ve already engaged for over eight years to not have these trucks in the neighborhood,” said Margaret Gordon, WOEIP

 By Ashley Chambers

One of the small companies that has been adversely impacted by the city’s Oakland Amy Base development project is Pacific Coast Containers (PCC Logistics), which has been handing inspections of potentially hazardous cargo coming through the Port of Oakland every day.

Because the city failed to guarantee PCC a stable lease on property on the base or Port of Oakland land, the company has lost its contract with the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).Big Rigs at Port

Customs is now now looking to contract with another business and relocate at the old Horizon Beverage plant in West Oakland across from Raimondi Park, an open field where young athletes and youth sports teams engage in regular activities

The CBP Customs Examination Station inspects about 300 trucks a month. As a result of the move, West Oakland may soon have to deal with polluting trucks loaded with cargos that could contain hazardous materials.

Hazardous materials are those that are explosive, toxic or radioactive.

According to PCC, which managed the customs contract for the last 10 years, this new location does not meet the requirements specified by CBP for Customs Exam Stations.

“Location is crucial,” said Rosa DeAnda, Assistant Business Unit Manager at PCC Logistics. “The community is out there with this high-risk cargo. What experience does this new company have? They don’t have the personnel or the experience.”

PCC received their letter of disqualification from CBP on Sept. 5, nearly a week before they moved into their new location on Maritime Street.

The company anticipated the customs exam station moving with them and their 60 staff members continuing to manage the contract. “They’re not creating new jobs but trying to recruit PCC staff,” said DeAnda.

Community groups and residents are also in strong opposition to moving this operation into the West Oakland neighborhood.

“We’ve already engaged for over eight years to not have these trucks in the neighborhood,” said Margaret Gordon of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP).

“We do not want the trucks to come back to West Oakland anymore.”

Local observers have also asked the city to request a risk assessment by the Alameda County Environmental Health Agency to evaluate the impact this move will have on the community.

“Customs does not have a policy saying they can’t, or shouldn’t, be having exam stations in neighborhoods,” Gordon said.

Activists are planning demonstrations at the Customs Bureau and at the old Horizon Beverage building. They are also starting a petition and plan to alert the teams and individuals who use Raimondi Park.

Raimondi Park

Raimondi Park

They are asking concerned residents to come to the city’s Community and Economic Development (CED)  meeting Tuesday at 2 p.m. at Oakland City Hall.

The city has attempted to sit down with CBP with no success. Assistant City Administrator Fred Blackwell says CBP must still go through the city’s zoning process and receive approval from the planning department before they can begin operations at the site.

Ces Butner, president of the board of the Oakland Port Commission, was the former owner of the old Horizon Beverage plant building, which is currently owned by Bay Area entrepreneur Tom Henderson.

Phil Tagami, master developer of the Army Base project, is a former port commissioner.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 18, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)