Without funding, tank farm clean-up stalls one year
A lack of federal funding stopped most cleanup efforts this year at the Lutak tank farm site, according to agency officials.
The work is being done by the Idaho-based firm Northwind, Inc ., which has held a contract with the U.S.Army for removing contamination at the site of a Cold War jet fuel depot near 3 Mile Lutak Road.
Army spokeswoman Linda Douglass said the funding gap was due to a change of personnel resulting from the federal military base realignment and closure. "A new team is in place…(and) committed to putting Haines back on track," Douglass said this week.
Due to the hitch, the Army didn’t get money to renew Northwind’s contract, so annual groundwater sampling at the site in spring and fall didn’t occur this year. The lack of funding also means that a "sparge" system that cleans soil by injecting air into the ground hasn’t operated since last spring.
"Because they didn’t have the money, they didn’t award the last year of the contract. The contract is still ‘alive,’ if you will, but they didn’t fund it," said Kim Kearney of Northwind.
Anne Marie Palmieri, an environmental specialist who monitors the site for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said the Army is talking about getting money in October. "They could fix the sparge curtain, but it’s going to be hard to take samples because water in the wells will be frozen," she said.
A request by the DEC for full examination around 12 former oil tanks also is pending, and would require additional funding. It’s outside the scope of Northwind’s current contract, which is centered on a main tank at the middle of the hilly, 10-acre site.
Some samples were done at the other dozen tank sites 10 years ago but sampling methods were inconsistent and few, Palmieri said. Not all samples were checked for the full range of possible contaminants, she said.
Previous work has found groundwater contamination migrating from above the site of the current cleanup work. "We don’t know exactly where the groundwater contamination is at each of these tanks. Each tank needs groundwater and soil sampling," Palmieri said.
The Army has designated funding for four samples of sediments from the sea floor around the old fuel dock there, where heavy metals were discovered during initial testing.
Palmieri said the state would like to see additional samples taken from different depths at a couple different spots and some additional samples taken from that area.
Residents provide input to the cleanup through the Restoration Advisory Board. It typically meets twice a year, but its last meeting was June 2010. A fall 2010 meeting was cancelled for lack of new information to share.
More than a dozen large tanks comprised the facility, filled by tankers that would pull up to the deep-water dock there. It was the terminus of a pipeline that stretched to Air Force bases in Fairbanks. It was later used for storage before being decommissioned in the late 1980s.