Filmmaker. Activist. Musician. US Travel Expert


Matthew Berdyck is an American experimental filmmaker and environmental activist most notably known for his national environmental campaigns. In his film career he has created several solicited TV pilots (Turner Networks – Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim), created the first ever first person feature length documentary about homelessness by living on the street for eighteen months of his life, short films about botched Superfund clean ups, and an experimental music video for a 2014 Grammy Nominee. His writing pieces on the subject of toxic waste have been read by millions of people in The United States. An avid traveler, Berdyck has logged 500,000 miles of US ground travel to over 2,000 cities while working as a professional filmmaker and Superfund activist. Post film career Matthew formed, an environmental organization dedicated to maintaining transparency in the U.S E.P.A.’s Superfund project. He is a dual resident of California and Washington D.C.



One Response

  1. Cara Barber says:


    Many thanks for all you do to cover the important health and environmental implications related to hazardous contamination and Superfund sites.

    As I read your article posted in July 2015, I wondered if you have heard about the thousands of military families living in contaminated military and privatized housing communities on military bases and/or federal lands who are told nothing about the well-documented and confirmed contamination in and around the homes they lease and live in, much less the serious health and exposure risks they face. I represent one of those families who naively presumed the military and/or state would ensure the homes leased to military families were safe, but I was sadly mistaken. Despite the confirmed and well-documented contamination in and around the homes on Marine Corps Base Hawaii and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, the military families stationed to these bases who lease the homes are told nothing about it. Granted state law requires landlords to disclose all known health and safety hazards to prospective tenants, but most MCBH and JBPHH families are likely just as naive as I was and do not realize that law does not protect them since we lease homes on federal lands.

    After my family and many others in our community developed the same or similar chronic health issues after moving into privatized military family housing on Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH), I began researching the possibility of undisclosed, hazardous contamination in and/or around our assigned homes. Years later I finally found it. It took years because the evidence was not shared in the normal or expected places and the housing communities on these bases are not considered part of any “superfund” site. It wasn’t until 2013, when I found a former Pacific Area Director of OSHA who served as a Health and Safety Officer on one of the MCBH housing redevelopment projects that my suspicious were confirmed. He confirmed my worst fears and had ample evidence to prove it. Shortly after I learned the truth, I began sharing it with all other MCBH families I could.

    I was shocked to learn Walter Chun, PhD, the former Pacific Area Director of OSHA, had been persistently complaining about the failure to protect the heath and safety of MCBH and JBPHH families for years. He began complaining in 2006! Yet, to this day, nothing has been done to inform or protect the health and safety of the thousands of unsuspecting military families who are stationed to and live on this base, aside from my public Facebook page about this issue and the numerous news articles it and our class action lawsuit have generated.

    Not long thereafter I created and publicized a MCBH resident survey that approximately 600 MCBH residents completed. I mapped the serious and potentially related health effects they reported and although I suspected to see some “clusters,” Dr. Chun, the Hawaii Department of Health and others were shocked to see the overwhelming numbers of serious health effects MCBH families were suffering. These health effects ranged from asthma to untimely deaths of adults and children.

    We’ filed a class action lawsuit against the private housing contractor, Forest City Enterprises, Inc., and their private partnership with the Navy and Marine Corps, Ohana Military Communities, both of whom failed to remove, remediate or disclose the hazardous contamination and serious, lifetime health risks to resident families. After two (2) years of intense litigation and repeated refusals to conduct the normally required confirmation sampling/testing in these contaminated neighborhoods, the Hawaii Department of Health stepped up and requested this testing as well as a federal investigation (ATSDR) into this serious issue. But, just a couple weeks later, we learned the Navy and Marine Corps had decided to replace the tainted housing contractor subject to HDOH’s requests and our lawsuit with a new housing contractor, Hunt Companies. This strategic move on behalf of the Navy and Marine Corps effectively prevented any confirmation sampling/testing from being done and also preempted the federal investigation. No sampling, testing or disclosures have occurred since. The military obviously does not want the hazardous contamination in these neighborhoods to become public knowledge, especially considering contamination levels were previously confirmed at levels 100’s and 1000’s times higher than EPA safety recommendations.

    In fact, after thousands of soil tests confirmed the hazardous soil contamination throughout MCBH and Pearl Harbor neighborhoods in 2005, Forest City was scheduled to begin an eight (8) year massive housing redevelopment project in these contaminated and densely occupied military family housing communities. Although the thousands of military families who lived in these neighborhoods at the time should’ve been informed about the contamination long before Forest City began their massive redevelopment projects often within fete of families assigned homes on the windward coast of Oahu in 2006, no residents were informed. Instead, we lived beside years-long housing demolition and construction projects in which contaminated soils were persistently disturbed for years! Our beloved family pets died from “toxicity” and rapid onset of kidney and liver cancers and our children developed lifelong disabling health conditions and other persistent health issues, all while we remained clueless.

    Little did we know we were being exposed to unsafe levels of hazardous chemicals and carcinogens in the contaminated dirt, dust and debris that persistently escaped their project sites and was blown into and around our assigned homes next to these project sites. Many residents complained about the excessive project dust inundating our homes, but still nothing was done to mitigate the dust, aside from fences they cut huge holes in to prevent the strong coastal winds from blowing them down. We reported the serious health effects our children, pets and families developed, but nothing was done. In fact, we weren’t even informed about the hazardous contamination when we reported our serious health effects! Instead, we were lied to and told “all contaminants were removed from the homes prior to demolition,” without any mention of hazardous soil contamination.

    Forest City and Ohana Military Communities did not want to pay to remove 18 inches of highly contaminated topsoil from hundreds of acres of neighborhoods and then have to replace it with clean fill. So, they asked HDOH to permit higher levels of contamination in the MCBH and Pearl Harbor neighborhoods they were redeveloping. The Tier 2 environmental action levels (EALs) they requested and HDOH eventually permitted are approximately 20 times higher than EPA safety recommendations. Although they claim to have followed their Pesticide Soils Management Plan, hundreds of photos taken of their project activities between 2006 and 2014 seem to confirm no planned remediation or safety precautions were implemented. Even worse, Forest City refused to enter into a voluntary oversight agreement with HDOH and also refused to conduct post-remediation sampling/testing to determine if their planned remediation was effective. Considering the same subcontractor was hired to simultaneously manage and remediate contaminated soils in MCBH, Pearl Harbor and Hickam Air Force Base family housing neighborhoods and confirmation sampling/testing conducted in Hickam’s equally contaminated neighborhoods confirmed contamination levels were HIGHER AFTER REMEDIATION than before, there’s ample reason to suspect planned remediation activities were complete failures.

    So as I type this in May 2016, the best case scenario for thousands of unsuspecting MCBH and Pearl Harbor families is they and their young children are being exposed to hazardous contamination in and around their homes at levels 20 times higher than EPA safety recommendations. The more realistic and worst case scenario is IF confirmation sampling/testing were performed in MCBH and Pearl Harbor neighborhoods, it would confirm contamination levels higher than levels previously confirmed, which were 100’s and in some areas 1000’s of times higher than EPA safety recommendations. Exponentially more contaminants were released into these neighborhoods than were removed by remediation during years of redevelopment and persistent soil disturbing activities. Thus, it’s highly likely confirmation sampling/testing in MCBH and Pearl Harbor neighborhoods would yield the same results. This is likely why Forest City, the Navy and Marine Corps have repeatedly refused to do or allow confirmation sampling/testing in these neighborhoods. Go figure, uh?

    I share all this because I wanted to highlight the possibility of other cover-ups too. We know and have proven this hazardous contamination has been covered up for years. This case certainly proves other hazardous contamination, especially on federal lands, could be covered up, even though it exposes thousands of military service members, their children and spouses to much higher rates of cancer and other diseases. While evidence of hazardous contamination in other sites may be easier to find and is often disclosed, this does not apply to the thousands of military and privatized housing communities on federal lands that are home to hundreds of thousands of military families. Military families are the perfect victims . . .

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