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

Seep leaks tank farm fuel

 


Work at the Haines Fuel Terminal last year revealed significant underground pollution at Tanani Point Beach, representing as much as one third of the remaining soil contamination at the former U.S. Army tank farm at 2.5 Mile Lutak Road.

Arden Bailey, project manager for North Wind Group, a contractor testing soil and groundwater for pollutants, gave a presentation at the recent Restoration Advisory Board meeting, saying he was “surprised” to find contaminated soil on the beach in concentrations that exceed state Department of Environmental Conservation safety standards.

“On Tanani Beach, we really didn’t expect to find this contamination as much as we saw,” Bailey said. “This is probably a big part of the contamination at the tank farm, a third of the contaminated soil at the whole tank farm is there.”

The contamination is a “comingled plume” of diesel-range organics from the administration area just uphill from the beach, he said.

Anne Marie Palmieri with DEC said that because most of the contamination is underground, it doesn’t pose much of a hazard to human or animal health. The contamination in the groundwater is below DEC regulatory standards, and becomes even more diluted when it meets Chilkoot Inlet.

“That being said, I don’t think it’s a good idea to be playing in that water or let your dog drink,” Palmieri said.

She said the contamination most likely came from near a former mainline pump-house building.

“At this particular location, there were several potential sources. There was a dry well, a couple below-ground tanks, a pipe that ran to the burn pit where they would dispose of things…,” Palmieri said.

The fuel depot’s main pipeline turned in that area in front of the administration building to head north to Fairbanks.

Pollutants traveled underground past the fence and Lutak Road to a south-facing beach that’s popular with walkers and picnickers. A restroom and picnic tables were added nearby in recent years.

Bailey said the contaminants likely moved along a narrow gully in the bedrock above the clay layer about 10 to 20 feet down, then spread out along the beach.

“Most of the mobile constituents after 50 years have gone. Heavier, but less toxic material is left behind,” Bailey said.

Luke Williams of the Chilkoot Indian Association said the smell of fuel on the beach is evident. “I went down at low tide because I like to look for crab and stuff,” Williams said. “There was a very, very strong odor, like a 55-gallon drum of diesel spilled. It was very, very strong.”

Board member Jim Studley said he’s smelled the same thing for years. He was concerned for human and animal safety, saying that seaweed and crab are collected in that area.

Bailey said “diesel fuel is not particularly a bio-accumulator,” meaning it is not likely to compile in tissues of fish or other organisms it comes in contact with.

Palmieri said calculations will be run in a risk-assessment document to determine how much of a contaminant would “uptake” into different species.

Fuels also have contaminated the groundwater, which reaches tidewater there through a seep, Palmieri said.

North Wind will focus much of its work this summer on taking soil and water samples from the beach. Palmieri said that work will determine the extent of potential contamination in the groundwater flowing into the inlet. It also will provide an idea of how mobile the soil contamination is.

North Wind also will conduct more groundwater samples and replace and repair five monitoring wells at the tank farm site. There are also plans to conduct more testing between Tanani Point and the old fuel terminal dock. The company also will re-investigate the old Lutak burn pit.

The federal government has been investigating and cleaning up fuel contamination on the site since 1989. The Cold War facility, built in the 1950s and once connected to Interior military bases via a pipeline, closed in 1988.

Palmieri said the Army was first mandated to remove possible sources of contamination, including removing buildings, tanks and pipeline. The next effort was to stop migration of contamination outside the fence.

More recent work included excavating and treating a large volume of soil as an “interim cleanup action in order to keep contamination from moving off the site,” Palmieri said.

The Army is in its third summer of a remedial investigation of the remaining contamination. Brian Adams, remedial project manager for the Army, said there is no timeline for project completion.

Details and conclusions from the last three years of investigation will be included in a remedial investigation report this fall.

 
 

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