Connecting Alaska to the World And the World to Alaska
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Well Testing for Dumped Chemicals Planned at Salcha/Harding Lake


Well testing is planned for properties in the Harding Lake and Salcha areas, near where a large volume of liquid firefighting foam residue was dumped this spring.  The chemical residue was from testing of firefighting systems at Eielson Air Force Base, and a local contractor: Rolling Stone Inc., had an approved plan to properly dispose of it, but instead, an

estimated 33,000 gallons of a 2% foam solution were dumped on the ground at two company-owned gravel pits off the Richardson Highway. US Army Corps of Engineers spokesperson John Budnik says the possibility of groundwater contamination has prompted a testing plan.

"Tests of private, drinking-water wells within a quarter mile of the improper disposal locations, as well as two public wells, will be tested next week, near the community."

Budnik says one of the public wells is at the Knotty Shop (a gift shop) and the other is the Salcha Community well. He says a survey will determine how many of the 35 private properties have wells to be tested. Budnik says it’s unclear when well test results will be available.

"Sampling can take time, and the information-gathering portion of this, as well as the actual collection of the samples. But we are looking for a week's turnaround, once we've done the tests."

In the meantime, it remains unclear if there is any health or environmental threat. Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation on scene coordinator Sarah Moore says the foam does not contain PFAS, and no drinking water advisory has been issued. Moore says totes containing additional volumes of the high expanding foam waste, at the gravel pits, have raised questions. 

"We know that the totes still contain product, and they appear to be re-used totes -- they have some labels suggesting that other materirals were in them before this high-expansion foam waste. One of the questions we hope to answer from the samples taken from the totes is what else is in them."

The DEC, the Army Corps and Air Force are investigating the dumping case to determine who’s responsible, and why the approved foam disposal plan was deviated from.

Dan has been in public radio news in Alaska since 1993. He’s worked as a reporter, newscaster and talk show host at stations in McGrath, Valdez and Fairbanks. Dan’s experience includes coverage of a wide range of topics, from wolf control to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and dog mushing.