A picture of Eagle Rock Aggregates' facility at the Port of Long Beach. A similar facility could soon be built near West Oakland. (Credit: Eagle Rock Aggregates LLC)

Exactly one month after the Port of Oakland approved construction of an open-air gravel and sand facility, a West Oakland environmental group has filed a lawsuit to stop the project.

The West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project alleges that the Port of Oakland approved the facility without adequately taking into account the air pollution and other impacts it could have on surrounding neighborhoods.

The group is seeking an injunction to stop the project until the port completes a more thorough environmental study of the project and requires the company, Eagle Rock Aggregates, and the port to commit to more safeguards to prevent pollution.

“This sand and gravel project would have severe negative impacts on the health of the people in my community,” Ms. Margaret Gordon, co-founder of WOEIP, said in a press statement today.

The 18-acre gravel yard would store as much as 2.5 million tons of sand and gravel each year, offloaded from roughly 48 ships visiting the port. Roughly 70,000 truck trips per year would ferry the material through West Oakland and on freeways to regional cement plants. 

WOEIP is concerned that dust from the rock and sand piles, which will not be covered, could blow into surrounding neighborhoods, worsening already high rates of asthma and other illnesses that have been linked to industry at the port. Increased ships and truck traffic will also emit harmful particulate matter and greenhouse gasses.

Port of Oakland Director of Communications Robert Bernardo said the port cannot comment on active litigation.

The project’s environmental impact report and comments from various community groups and other public agencies can be viewed here.

Cement from the facility would be used in the foundations of large buildings and other major construction projects in the Bay Area. Eagle Rock Aggregates has operated in the East Bay since 2007 through the privately-owned Levin Terminal in Richmond. Cement made from the company’s imported gravel was used to build the Bay Bridge and downtown Oakland high-rises.

Brian Beveridge, co-founder of WOEIP, acknowledged that the lawsuit is a “serious challenge to the Port’s authority” but said his group feels that legal action is necessary. “The Port Commission has abandoned its obligation to protect our public interests in the shoreline and our air.”

WOEIP is not alone in criticizing the gravel project. The California Air Resource Board, a state agency that oversees clean air laws, noted in a letter to port officials two years ago that the project will “increase exposure to air pollution in disadvantaged communities,” and that the port and Eagle Rock should do more to reduce emissions of dust from the rock piles and trucks that will transport the gravel.

The lawsuit was filed in Alameda County State Superior Court. Laura Beaton of Shute, Mihaly and Weinberger is representing WOEIP.

Before joining The Oaklandside as News Editor, Darwin BondGraham was a freelance investigative reporter covering police and prosecutorial misconduct. He has reported on gun violence for The Guardian and was a staff writer for the East Bay Express. He holds a doctorate in sociology from UC Santa Barbara and was the co-recipient of the George Polk Award for local reporting in 2017. He is also the co-author of The Riders Come Out at Night, a book examining the Oakland Police Department's history of corruption and reform.