Residents on Dec. 12 expressed frustration with the progress of the environmental cleanup at the former U.S. Army tank farm site.

During the first meeting of the Restoration Advisory Board since June 2010, member Jim Studley asked why the Army didn’t just excavate soil in tank areas and main lines and decontaminate it. “Dig those out. I’m fairly certain that will solve 90 percent of the problem. Find out where the contamination is at and close this sucker up.”

Member Fred Gray said Studley’s idea was “common sense.” “We’ve been BS’d a lot, especially in the first five years. The community wants to move on. We want closure. That site could be our next economic development boom.”

But Joe Malen, remedial program manager for the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Wainwright, cautioned that removing pipes could become unnecessarily expensive, especially where areas have already been cleaned. Some pipes carried steam, water or sewage, he said, and not all buried pipe shows on as-built plans. Further, some diagrams of buried pipe are missing.

“We want to use our money wisely,” Malen said, noting that future funding could be jeopardized if the project is found to be wasting money. “We’re trying to break away from the isolated-area approach.”

Instead, during the winter, the Army will contract with Northwind, Inc. to write a “data gap analysis” intended to reveal what of significance remains to be done on the site. That will include a review of the cleanup completed to date, incorporating the findings of 79 reports about the facility.

Arden Bailey, Northwind’s field manager at the tank farm site since 2008, said the analysis would look at historical operation records and hundreds of as-builts for features that had the potential to release contaminants to the environment. It will include what’s been done, what requires no further action and areas that need more study. Questions to be asked will include whether previous soil and water sampling was appropriate and complete, he said.

“We have to make sure we have everything found before we say what’s going to be happening with it,” Bailey said.

Anne Marie Palmieri of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation said after the meeting that she made a list of areas that were potential sources of contamination, including around the farm’s large tanks. “They haven’t started looking at those,” Palmieri said.

Brian Adams, the Army’s manager of the site, said that after evaluating the “data gap analysis,” the Army would determine the need for additional actions, complete decision documents and follow them. The Army also will continue operation of the air sparge system at the tank farm site until July 2014.

Board member Gray asked Malen if the Lutak site was still ranked among Army concerns for contaminated sites.

“We’re still a major focus in big Army’s plan. That doesn’t mean we get a promise of all the money we need. We have to keep putting information out that we’re getting this done… We’re going to do all we can to keep this in people’s eyes,” Malen replied.

A possible across-the-board cut of 30 percent of federal funds could impact work, he said. “These things have to be taken into consideration when you’re trying to get things done.”

Eight out-of-town environmental officials outnumbered residents who attended the meeting, including Palmieri. Residents Dave Nanney, Pat Warren and Bill Kurz were elected to the restoration board. Seated members include Ed Warren, Gray and Studley.

The recent delay in cleanup efforts came during a restructuring of the Army’s Environmental Command. Since 2010, authority for the Haines site was transferred from Fort Richardson to Fort Wainwright. As a “preliminary assessment report” of the site was conducted in 1991, restoration efforts have been ongoing more than 20 years.

The 13-tank facility opened in 1955 and for 16 years was connected to Fairbanks by a jet-fuel pipeline to air bases there. Pipeline usage was discontinued in 1971. The tanks were used for storage until 1988.

Cleanup work completed to date has included:

· excavating and disposing of contaminated soil outside the tank farm perimeter fence at the Tanani and Lutak burn pits;

· removing the fuel pipeline from the tank farm dock to the manifold building;

· installing wells and taking water and soil samples from various locations to try to characterize contamination;

· excavating and treating contaminated soil associated with Tank 100, the manifold building downhill of Tank 107 and the former utility building in the administration area;

· performing three treatability studies, including the air-sparge system, a high-vacuum extraction system of limited effectiveness, and a system that injected oxygen-releasing compounds at Tank 104 and near Tank 100.

For more information about the cleanup or to serve on the RAB board, contact Brian Adams, 907-361-6623, or at [email protected].