Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Contaminated soil stops road work


Construction work at the intersection of Beach Road and Front Street was halted early this week when oil-contaminated soil was discovered at a site adjacent to a fuel tank farm there.

On Wednesday, work at the site had shifted from earth-clearing to moving an estimated five cubic yards of soil to a holding site near the Delta Western property, across from the post office.

State Department of Transportation spokesman Jeremy Woodrow described the contamination as “low level” but said the final volume of contaminated soil to be removed was unknown. “We don’t know how much soil is going to be taken out of there. We won’t know until the project is done.”

Bruce Wanstall, an environmental specialist for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said workers on Monday smelled “a diesel smell” while digging on land straddling the state’s right-of-way and tank farm property owned by fuel distributor Delta Western.

“Delta Western stepped up and said they’ll take care of (the costs of removal). There was never any resistance to that,” Wanstall said.

The discovery of oil came in a ditch in front of a lower warehouse loading dock at the south end of Front Street, the same location where DEC found a high concentration of weathered petroleum last fall.

Wanstall said Delta Western, at the request of DEC, drilled borings on tank farm property to a depth of 14 feet last fall. Eight samples found low levels of petroleum residues and one sample – from near a loading dock – was above the migration to groundwater level.

Wanstall said the soil testing was independent of and that, due to communications issues, DEC and DOT had not discussed the construction transecting contaminated areas.

A water well at the site complicates the state’s attempts to determine concentrations of contamination there, he said.

DOT and DEC officials this week described the tank farm and former gas station as a known contaminated site. According to DEC’s Wanstall, Delta Western last year shipped 500 cubic yards of contaminated soil from the site to the Lower 48 for remediation.

The state is overseeing construction work at the site, which will eliminate a sharp-angled intersection at Front Street and Beach Road. Southeast Roadbuilders is doing the work.

Jim Lowell, construction engineer for the Department of Transportation, said encountering such contamination occurs routinely. He said he doubted it would delay project completion.

Delta Western purchased the property in recent years. Previous owners include Petro Marine and White Pass.