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After Cleanup at Old Fuel-pipeline Facility, Agency to Monitor Leftover Contamination

Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation

An Army Corps of Engineers contractor completed cleanup work last week at an old pump station near Delta Junction that was part of a pipeline the military used decades ago to transport gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel from Haines to bases in the Interior.

Anchorage-based Bristol Environmental Remediation Services removed 15,000 tons of fuel-contaminated soil from the old Timber Pump Station near Quartz Lake. But Army Corps of Engineers project manager Beth Astley says the contractor couldn’t remove contaminationthat had reached groundwater and spread.

“There’s a fairly large plume of contamination in the groundwater there,” she said.

Astley says the Corps of Engineers will monitor groundwater around the Timber Station to determine whether the contamination is still spreading – and whether removing the tainted soil above is reducing the level of the contaminants in the groundwater below.

“So we will be continuing our investigation of that area,” she said. “We’re going to be installing several groundwater-monitoring wells, and we’ll be taking groundwater samples to determine what the residual contaminant concentrations are now that we’ve done the soil removal.”

The state Department of Environmental Conservation says fuel spills can unleash many chemical compounds that pose a threat to human health, especially benzene, a cancer-causing substance.

Astley says the Timber Station cleanup project cost $3.5 million. She says Bristol Environmental began another cleanup this week at the site of an old tank farm near Birch Lake that also was part of the Haines-Fairbanks pipeline.

“The contract allows 1,500 tons of petroleum-impacted soil to be removed,” she said. “So they will keep removing soil until they reach that contract capacity or until the samples are no longer contaminated.”

Astley says the Birch Lake project is expected to be completed by the end of the month. She says that‘ll be the fourth cleanup the Corps of Engineers has conducted this summer on facilities that were part of old pipeline, which ran from Haines to Fairbanks through a portion of Canada then along the Alaska Highway and Richardson Highway. It operated from 1954 to 1973.

The other two cleanups conducted this summer were at Scottie Creek, near the U.S.-Canada border, and at Dot Lake.

Astley says plans call for work to continue on cleanups at three other old pipeline facilities near Sears Creek, Tok and the main terminal at Haines.

Editor's note: The Army Environmental Command cleanups at Sears Creek, Tok Terminal and Haines Fuel Terminal are being managed through the Fort Wainwright Directorate of Public Works Environmental Restoration Program.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.