A concrete sand and gravel facility on the edge of the water.
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)

The West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project and the Port of Oakland have agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by the WOEIP last year which alleged that the port approved construction of a large gravel and concrete sand facility without accounting for how it could harm West Oakland residents.

Spokespeople for both the WOEIP and the port said the new agreement will allow for construction and operation of the facility while making adjustments to protect the surrounding community’s health. 

“Working alongside Eagle Rock and our West Oakland community, we are bringing bulk shipping to the Port of Oakland that is more sustainable and further reduces impacts on the environment and surrounding communities,” said the port’s Executive Director Danny Wan.

WOEIP filed its lawsuit in March 2022, a month after the announcement of the terminal’s upcoming construction. The facility sparked immediate concerns from community members, environmental advocates, and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The California Air Resources Board also wrote a letter to the Port, expressing concerns that West Oakland’s already disadvantaged communities would see their air quality further impacted. The facility will store concrete sand and other aggregates outdoors. Several groups warned that wind could blow dust from piles into nearby neighborhoods. Emissions from trucks, equipment, and ships were also a major concern. 

Eagle Rock Aggregates, a subsidiary of Polaris Materials, has been operating in the Bay Area for several years out of the privately owned Levin Terminal in Richmond. While the Richmond terminal stores piles of concrete sand and aggregates in covered facilities, the Oakland terminal will store the materials in open air, spraying them down with water to prevent some dust from becoming airborne.

Eagle Rock Aggregates did not respond to requests for comment on the settlement.   

Years of environmental racism have shaped West Oakland. The area’s industrial legacy includes lingering contaminants in the soil and groundwater that still affect residents today. For example, Mclymonds High School was temporarily shut down after the carcinogenic chemical trichloroethylene was found in the ground water under the school.

Air pollution is a longstanding problem in West Oakland.The area’s residents experience some of the highest levels of air pollution in the Bay Area. According to the Alameda County Public Health Department, West Oakland residents have higher rates of asthma-related emergency room visits than neighboring communities. A 2008 report for the Alameda County Public Health Department found that a Black person born in West Oakland had a life expectancy 15 years less than a white person living in the Oakland hills. 

The settlement reached between WOEIP and the port will include measures to mitigate pollutants from affecting the already at-risk community. The agreement promises to use shore power to reduce pollution from ships, “accelerate” the use of all-electric or zero-emissions vehicles at the terminal, construct power outlets at the port to reduce emissions, report regularly on the compliance of the operations for community review, and use current data to prepare a new air quality analysis for use in future port projects.  

“For 25 years, West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project has fought to reduce the deadly impacts of emissions from the freight industry at and around the port,” said Ms. Margaret Gordon, co-director of WOEIP. “This settlement is another step in the right direction to protect the health and well-being of the people ‘just across the freeway’ from the Port.”

The Eagle Rock terminal will handle over 2.5 million tons of rock and sand that will be used to make concrete for public and private construction projects. It will cover 18 acres and is approved to lease the land for 12 years.

Callie Rhoades covers the environment for The Oaklandside as a 2023-2025 California Local News Fellow. She previously worked as a reporter for Oakland North at Berkeley Journalism’s Investigative Reporting Program. She has also worked as an intern for Estuary News Group, as an assistant producer for the Climate Break podcast, and as an editorial intern for SKI Magazine. Her writing has appeared in Sierra Magazine, Earth Island Journal, and KneeDeep Times, among others. She graduated from The University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism in 2023.