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

Contaminated soil may slow land sale


Contaminated soil at the old primary school lot is presenting a problem for the potential sale of a 1.2-acre parcel to a statewide hotel chain.

After receiving a letter of interest from Aspen Management LLC, the Haines Borough Assembly voted to classify two lots bordering Main Street and Fifth Avenue as “for sale.”

According to Aspen’s local real estate agent Glenda Gilbert, though, company representatives haven’t bid on the lots because contaminated soil – and potentially contaminated water – from an old leaking diesel tank at the primary school might make use of the land for a hotel unfeasible.

“They haven’t made an offer based on that, because we’re trying to figure out if they can work with that lot still,” Gilbert said.

Whether or not the company will make an offer is “in limbo,” Gilbert said, until results from soil and groundwater tests come in later this fall.

According to public facilities director Carlos Jimenez, the borough signed a contract with Chilkat Environmental Services Sept. 20 for the installation of three monitoring wells at the contaminated site.

Jimenez said the wells will determine the extent of the soil contamination and whether contaminants are leeching into the groundwater and traveling away from the property.

The contract is not to exceed $15,000, he said.

Elijah Donat, an environmental engineer with Chilkat Environmental Services, said the wells – pieces of pipe about 12 feet long and two inches in diameter – will be installed this fall. Samples from the wells will be sent to a lab for analysis, and a report will be ready this winter.

The completed report is then forwarded to the Department of Environmental Conservation, which determines what level of cleanup, if any, is required at the site.

“We don’t know if a clean-up will be required. That’s a decision made by DEC,” Donat said.

How potential users of the property come into contact with any contaminants – touching soil, drinking water, breathing air – also is used to determine how much clean-up is required, he said.

“That determines the exposure pathway, which informs the conceptual site model, which the state uses to determine the cleanup level,” Donat said.

To his knowledge, Aspen Hotels expressing interest in the property has no bearing on the current work being done, Donat said.

“This is a process that has been going on for years. It’s just now coming to a head. It’s just circumstantial that they are looking at the property,” he said.

Aspen president George Swift did not return multiple calls and emails for comment.

The company is proposing to build a two-story hotel with 49 to 54 rooms and 48 parking spaces. The 31,000-square-foot building would include a 600-square-foot meeting room.


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