Derek Poinsette
By the end of the summer, there will be 1.5 miles of new trail on Takshanuk Watershed Council’s Jones Point property. The map reflects the trail system layout once the summer project is complete.

A 20-year-long soil remediation project at Jones Point is finally nearing completion. This past week, environmental consulting firm Cox Environmental came to the site to drill groundwater monitoring wells, a step in determining whether the soil is ready for the final stage of remediation.

In 2015, Takshanuk Watershed Council purchased the Jones Point property from Klukwan, Inc. As part of the deal, Takshanuk inherited responsibility for thousands of cubic yards of petroleum-laced soil that had been relocated to the property in 1999 from the old tank farm on Beach Road.

Klukwan, Inc. had been working to remediate the soil in consultation with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) since the late 1990s, but between 2011 and 2014, as the corporation underwent financial difficulties, care for the contaminated soil declined.

The soil, which Taskshanuk executive director Derek Poinsette estimates could fill the school gymnasium up to 10 feet, is currently stored in piles under tarps across from Taskshanuk’s office. Bacteria in the soil have been slowly breaking down contaminants.

The water samples from the groundwater monitoring wells drilled last week will determine whether any contamination escaped from the piles. Cox Environmental will return in August to sample the piles themselves. Results from the two tests will allow the company to assess whether the soil is clean enough to move into the land-farming stage, which involves spreading out the soil and tilling it regularly. Oxygen reacts with the remaining pollutants, and over time, the process brings the soil below the legal threshold for contamination.

Ceri Godinez
Work continues on Takshanuk Watershed Council’s picnic pavilion near Jones Point. Construction began in May and should be completed by September. When it opens, the timber-frame structure with fire rings and picnic tables will be open to the public.

“There’s no such thing as one-hundred percent clean,” Poinsette said, but the soil will eventually be clean enough to allow Takshanuk to plant native grasses at the site.

Poinsette estimates the land farming could take them into next summer, but the timeline will depend, in part, on Cox and DEC.

The cost of remediating contaminated soil adds up. Poinsette said the final step is going to cost $80,000. He estimates Takshanuk has already spent tens of thousands to get to this point.

It’s been challenging for the organization to secure funding. Because Takshanuk owns the property where the contaminated soil is located, it’s ineligible for many state and federal grants that fund environmental cleanups.

“They wouldn’t want to reward somebody for polluting their own land,” Poinsette said. So far, the organization has been able to “scrape together” money to fund earlier stages of clean up.

Takshanuk was able to secure a grant from the Conservation Fund for the final stage of remediation.