Potter Creek and Hazardous Material


Responsible use, storage, and maintenance of hazardous materials in Potter Creek becomes more and more important as our density increases with more live and work-live units. Not only are we experiencing greater density but often this increase is in living spaces occupied by families. There was a time when children were never seen or heard here -- something of which my Grandpa would have approved. But now, in addition to the playing school children, there are many residents out walking and playing with their families even during the week-workdays. Hazardous materials cannot be viewed today as they were only a few years ago. Recently I went over to a neighbor's around 10th Street for a visit. After some photos and conversation we went up to the third floor sun-deck. There, we had a panoramic view of Potter Creek and west-Berkeley. But on this warm Spring day what was more notable than the weather was the awkward proximity of businesses and residences. This was made all the more apparent by their neighbor's paint-booth exhaust system, a mere fifteen feet, up-wind from the deck. "Does that bother you?' I asked. "No, we only smell paint when it's on" he offered in denial.


The California Health and Safety Code (which is incorporated by reference into the Berkeley Municipal Code) defines a Hazardous Material as:

"Hazardous material" means any material that, because of its quantity, concentration, or physical or chemical characteristics, poses a significant present or potential hazard to human health and safety or to the environment if released into the workplace or the environment. "Hazardous materials" include, but are not limited to, hazardous substances, hazardous waste, and any material which a handler or the administering agency has a reasonable basis for believing that it would be injurious to the health and safety of persons or harmful to the environment if released into the workplace or the environment.


My first run through of the City of Berkeley list of over four hundred hazardous material users has yielded about sixty users in our neighborhood -- the area from the RR Tracks to San Pablo and Ashby to Dwight. This is an area five blocks wide and six blocks long, or thirty square blocks. We have roughly two users of hazardous material per square block, and we are home to about 15% of all the hazardous material users in the City of Berkeley. The figures are preliminary. Also, it is important to remember that this is a list of users and does not address responsible or irresponsible use, and the nature of the hazardous material is not listed. It may be benign -- it may not. Finally, this City of Berkeley list does not reflect unregistered users.




Registered hazardous material users will be represented by red dots.