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

Cleanup at 7 Mile at $800K


The cost of cleanup at an unsanctioned rifle range at 7 Mile has reached $800,000 and will likely continue into next year, a U.S. Bureau of Land Management cleanup official said this week.

Larry Beck, environmental protection specialist for BLM, was in town this week for continuing work at the site, where contractor Northwind, Inc. was scooping up soil contaminated with lead and antimony for shipment to a waste disposal facility in the Lower 48.

Beck said the project already was using some money initially designated for site restoration because contamination at the site is considerably greater than was originally anticipated.

For example, concentrations of lead were expected to reach levels considered hazardous in some of the soil in the mountainside that served as an earthen backstop for shooters. Instead, all the fill removed last year reached the EPA’s standard for “hazardous waste,” Beck said.

“We filled 30, 20-yard containers with dirt and every single one ended up being disposed of as hazardous waste,” Beck said.

In addition, spent lead rounds and shot were found 6-8 feet into the mountainside, much deeper than expected. Beck said the natural sloughing of the steep slope there, over time, buried the lead again and again.

Beck, who said he’s been cleaning up contamination at federal sites in Alaska since 1991, said the discovery of contamination greater than what showed up on an initial survey of the site was disappointing but not surprising.

“I’ve never once had an excavation go exactly as we thought it would go. Those plumes (of contamination) in the ground get funny sometimes,” Beck said.

Fill deemed as “hazardous” isn’t the only soil that needs to be cleaned up at the site. Some, classified as “regulated” for its level of contaminants, also needs to be remediated, but typically costs about half as much as “hazardous waste” to dispose of, he said.

Funding for this year’s work, expected to last 10 days, includes enough to remove only one container of fill at the “hazardous” threshold, or two at the less toxic level, he said.

Work this year included removal of fill within the state’s right-of-way, approximately 60 feet off the asphalt and up to a perimeter fence on BLM land there.

Beck said the area was a priority to get in ahead of state Department of Transportation plans to put parking spaces there for hikers using Mount Ripinsky’s 7 Mile trailhead. Other work will include taking samples along a grid there to better define remaining site contamination, he said.

The site was used for years, including as an illicit dump. Beck said that besides lead contamination, crews last year found a buried, 1930s-era truck bed and yards of “uncooked” asphalt.

Beck said the cost of shipping contaminated soil is a large factor in the cost of the cleanup.


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