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Site Report: Amchitka - DOE - Mud Pits

Site Name: Amchitka - DOE - Mud Pits
Address: Base Camp, Amchitka, AK 99546
File Number: 2512.38.002.01
Hazard ID: 1584
Status: Active
Staff: Wendy Hansen, 9072693059
Latitude: 51.378110
Longitude: -179.286790
Horizontal Datum:NAD83

We make every effort to ensure the data presented here is accurate based on the best available information currently on file with DEC. It is therefore subject to change as new information becomes available. We recommend contacting the assigned project staff prior to making decisions based on this information.


The sites on Amchitka Island that are the responsibility of the DOE originated from three nuclear test shots performed between 1965 - 1972. The event names were Milrow, Long Shot, and Cannikan. The tests were conducted in the center portion of the island northwest of the WWII base camp. Several drilling mud pits were created to store muds that were necessary to drill the implacement and geotechnical test holes for the test sites. The drilling muds were sampled and contained elevated levels of DRO and chromium. Low level PCBs were also present in the muds below regulatory levels. However historic spills impacted area drainages which in turn caused uptake of PCBs by biota. The benthic communities have made various stages of recovery. A risk assessment was performed in 2001 - 2002. Drill site D pits were the largest pits. The Long Shot Pits were the most impacted by DRO. A DOE (Shannon and Wilson) report with analytical data for the muds was issued in December 1999. Mud pits include drill sites C, D, E, F, G, H, Long Shot, Milrow, and Cannikin. A multi agency cleanup on the island was performed in 2001 including remedial action at the mud pits which involved consolidation of the drilling muds into 7 pits, stabilizing the muds by mixing in soil, constructing engineered caps over the pits and re-vegetating them. The CS program has been overseeing and providing input on DOE's assessment and monitoring activities related to the underground nuclear tests to evaluate whether any seepage of radionuclides is occurring that could pose risk to human health or the environment.

Action Information

Action Date Action Description DEC Staff
12/1/1999 Site Added to Database Muds generated from boring nuclear shot holes and associated geo-technical investigations. Muds have tested above regulatory levels for DRO and chromium. Drill site D pits appear to be the most impacted. Dennis Harwood
2/24/2000 Meeting or Teleconference Held Staff included Doug Dasher and Stan Read. Participated in meetings with the DOE, COE, F&W, Navy and AI/PA and public on subsurface radiological contamination, and the scope of work for each agency for the next couple years. The DOE will be visiting the island this summer to perform data gap samplng and structural stability studies for the mudpits, groundwater sampling and an existing monitoring well inventory. The DOE will submit a proposed plan this fall and plans to perform cleanup on the mudpits and other surface sites in 2001. Jeff Brownlee
4/17/2000 Meeting or Teleconference Held Staff attended meetings with the DOE, API/A, F&W and IT Corp. The agenda included cleanup strategy for the mudpits, ARARs, marine sampling, and preliminary review of the 1998 S&W Drill Site Characterization. Jeff Brownlee
4/18/2000 Update or Other Action Draft 1998 Shannon and Wilson Drill Site Characterization Report. Includes sampling of drilling muds (COPC = DRO and chromium) and a sediment toxicity Triad Analysis of streams impacted by muds and a comparison to four reference streams. PCBs were discovered at low concentration in drilling muds and at levels above "no consumption recommended" in fish at drainages near the pits. Jeff Brownlee
7/17/2000 Update or Other Action Staff (Dasher and Brownlee) prepared comments on the Draft MOU between the Navy, COE, DOE, FWS, A/PIA and ADEC. The MOU should be reviewed by the various agencies legal consoles this fall. Jeff Brownlee
8/27/2000 Update or Other Action Staff visited Amchitka with the FWS, DOE, and COE. Visited the majority of COE sites that still have potential issues and all the known DOE mudpits. Jeff Brownlee
10/24/2000 Meeting or Teleconference Held Staff including Pingree participated in a risk assessment scoping meeting for the PCBs in drainages adjacent to the mudpits. We discussed the CSM and study area. Meeting was attended by Dave Stahl (IT) Monica Sanchez (DOE), Jordan Stout (USF&W), Mike Murray, Paul Gretsky (IT), Pingree and Brownlee Jeff Brownlee
1/16/2001 Update or Other Action Staff reviewed an Ecological Assessment/FONSI for the work to be performed this summer on the island. The Corps of Engineers produced the EA/FONSI for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The ADEC agreed that no significant impact would result from the multi-agency cleanup planned for this summer. Major work includes the DOE stabilizing the drilling mudpits and the Navy demolishing a number of buildings including the ROTHR facility, and performing a cleanup action at the sewage lagoon. Jeff Brownlee
2/2/2001 Update or Other Action Staff prepared contractor comments of a geotechnical review for a Draft 90% Design submittal for closure of drilling mudpits on Amchitka Island. The mudpits were formed from drilling exploratory holes and emplacement borings for three nuclear devices in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The remedial action will be to stabilize and cap the pits in-place. The DOE contractor appears to have not used conservative enough parameters for calculating bearing load capacities of the muds and potential seismic ground motion. Underestimating these values may lead to requiring an increased amount of borrow material and larger footprints for the finished cap and berms. Jeff Brownlee
2/23/2001 Cleanup Plan Approved Staff reviewed a remedial action workplan for work to be done on Amchitka Island this summer. The DOE will be closing 11 mudpits in-place by mixing the muds with sands and gravel and capping. The mudpits were left from borehole drilling from a nuclear testing program conducted on the island from 1965 to 1972. Several abandoned monitoring wells will be decommissioned, as well as two underground storage tanks containing liquid asphalt. Jeff Brownlee
5/2/2001 Meeting or Teleconference Held Staff participated in a public meeting for the cleanup on Amchitka. Public interest focused on the historic worker health issues and the potential health issues for workers at the cleanup this summer. Jeff Brownlee
7/31/2001 Update or Other Action Staff visited the island and performed site inspections at various sites being cleaned up by the Navy, Department of Energy and the Corps of Engineers. The three agencies are conducting a joint cleanup effort this summer and sharing the cost of mobilization and support. There are currently about 100 people on the island with full camp facilities. The DOE is making good progress on the drilling mud pits from the nuclear drilling program in the late 1960s and early 1970s. There are six separate sites that include eleven mud pits. Currently the DOE contractors are working on drill site D, which includes the three largest mud pits and the Longshot site, which has the most contaminated mud pits. The contractors are mixing sands and gravel with the drill muds and closing the pits in-place. A 30-mil liner is being placed over the mixed soil and a soil cap placed over that and seeded. The muds are impacted with DRO and chromium. The Navy is making good progress on the sewage lagoon cleanup in spite of some technical problems. The lagoon was contaminated with PCBs at levels up to 400 mg/kg. Approximately 1200 cubic yards of sludge is being slurried off and put through a centrifuge. The solids are then dried in thermal dryer for transport off the island. The fluids are treated through an engineered water treatment system and discharged on-site. The Corps of Engineers is conducting an Unexploded Ordinance (UXO) investigation at various sites on the island. The work involves screening with EM-61 detectors and magnetometers for UXO. Several items that have had to be "blown in-place" have been found so far. Locations for study have been determined by historical records and aerial photographs and documented in a report called an Archive Search Report. Jeff Brownlee
9/26/2001 Update or Other Action Staff compiled contractor and department comments on a human health and ecological risk assessment workplan. The assessment address spills of low concentration PCBs in drilling muds that impacted several drainages on the island. Biological sampling has shown that resident fish (Dolly Varden) have accumulated PCBs above EPA benchmark screening for human consumption. Jeff Brownlee
1/15/2002 Meeting or Teleconference Held Staff participated in a comment resolution meeting for a risk assessment workplan for PCBs in resident fish and sediment in creeks that have been impacted from drilling muds. The muds were used in the late 1960s and early 1970s to advance several large borings for three nuclear detonations. The ADEC will need to evaluate data collected by the Department of Energy in 2001 to determine if there is adequate information to say that PCB impacts have not migrated to the marine environment. The workplan will need to evaluate additional contaminants of concern that are reasonably expected to be present in drilling muds, especially those known to bioaccumulate. Jeff Brownlee
2/18/2003 Site Characterization Report Approved The after action report for the mudpit closures was reviewed and approved. Also addressed was the hot mix plant UST site (asphalt) and abandoning of 11 monitoring wells. Jeff Brownlee
8/1/2003 Meeting or Teleconference Held Staff attended two planning meetings for the Amchitka radiological monitoring project. Contaminated Sites has been asked to participate with Air and Water to help develop a Decision Document for the radiation issues on the island and move the project into long term stewardship. The Consortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation (CRESP) has independently produced a Science Plan to help evaluate if there is currently radiation leaking into the marine environment and the likelihood of when and where leakage will occur. An initial risk screening and groundwater model have also been produced. The Department of Energy has agreed to fund a portion of the Science Plan. Biological sampling and hydrogeology work should start in 2004 (Halverson/Brownlee). Jeff Brownlee
7/22/2004 Update or Other Action Staff reviewed a draft Proposed Plan for the Department of Energy surface closure on Amchitka Island. The plan addresses the remedial action that was taken in 2001 to cleanup the eleven drilling mud pits used during the below ground nuclear devise testing on the island. The document needs significant restructuring and additional information Jeff Brownlee
4/21/2005 Proposed Plan Jeff Brownlee
8/11/2005 Update or Other Action Contaminated Sites staff reviewed a monitoring and inspection plan for the mudpit caps on Amchitka Island. The pits were used to store mud for drilling the emplacement holes for three nuclear devises tested on the island in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The mudpits were contaminated primarily with Diesel Range Organics and were remediated in 2001 by stabilization and capping. The Department of Energy is proposing contracting to the EPA to do the inspections during their five year groundwater monitoring events. The caps will be inspected for erosion and vegetation health, and documented with photos Jeff Brownlee
10/26/2005 Update or Other Action File number assigned 2512.38.002. Aggie Blandford
7/26/2006 Meeting or Teleconference Held Staff participated in a meeting to discuss the technical and regulatory issues concerning the surface and subsurface cleanup for the Department of Energy (DOE) work on Amchitka Island. The DOE cleanup issues result from the testing of three underground nuclear devices from 1965 to 1972. The surface work focuses primarily on several drilling mudpits contaminated with diesel fuel and low levels of PCBs and metals. A Record of Decision has been reviewed by the DEC and is close to being signed. The subsurface work is focusing on a variety of monitoring approaches to detect if there is any radionuclide leakage from the shot cavities to the marine environment. A draft “Subsurface Completion Report” discussing the 2005 monitoring work has just been issued for review. Current modeling predicts radiation leakage to the marine environment in approximately 2000 years Jeff Brownlee
10/23/2006 Update or Other Action DOE submitted the Amchitka Island Mud Pit Sites 2006 Post-Closure Monitoring and Inspection Report, Amchitka Island. The report documented limited revegetation over the capped drilling mud disposal pits. The greatest vegetative cover was at Longshot, the lowest evelavation of the sites, and was ~50% vegetated. The least vegetative cover was ~8% at sites E and F. Minimal erosion had ocurred. John Halverson
3/19/2007 Exposure Tracking Model Ranking Jeff Brownlee
3/23/2007 Update or Other Action Decision Document pending. Waiting on currence from Fish & Wildlife. Jeff Brownlee
8/25/2008 Record of Decision DEC signed the ROD addressing the surface areas at the Amchitka Underground Nuclear Test Sites. The ROD describes the site characterization and cleanup work associated with the Test Sites. Tweleve drilling mud disposal pits were abandoned on the island after the testing was completed in the 1970s. One pit was determined a no-further-action area, one pit was excavated and the waste placed into one of the others, and ten pits were closed in place be stabilizing the drilling muds by mixing in other soil and then capping each with a geosynthetic liner, clean soil and revegetating them. The drilling mud disposal sites are considered conditionally closed with institutional controls. DOE will inspect the sites at least once every five years for a minimum of thirty years. John Halverson
8/25/2008 Cleanup Complete Determination Issued DEC signed the Record of Decision for Conditional Closure with Institutional Controls on the drilling mud disposal pits. John Halverson
10/5/2008 Institutional Control Record Established Institutional Controls established and entered into the database. Jeff Brownlee
1/2/2009 Update or Other Action DOE submitted an Amchitka Island Revegetation Task report dated October 2008. The report documents a coordinated field effort between DOE and USFWS to re-apply fertilizer and a grass seed mixture, recommended by the ADNR Plant Materials Center, over the capped drilling mud disposal pits. John Halverson
2/4/2011 Exposure Tracking Model Ranking Initial ranking with ETM completed for source area id: 72562 name: Mud Pits (seven areas) Bianca Reece
11/23/2012 Report or Workplan Review - Other DOE submitted the Amchitka Mud Pit Sites 2011 Post-Closure Monitoring and Inspection Report, dated November 2012. The report concludes there were no significant changes in the adequacy of the caps since the 2006 inspection. Some minor erosion and settling has occurred and the report recommends corrective measures be implemented during the next monitoring event. Vegetative cover is reported to be increasing with vascular plant cover over at least 20% of each cap, and greater than 50% on 4 of the seven caps. John Halverson
7/21/2014 Update or Other Action DOE notified DEC and other Amchitka stakeholders that it plans to inspect the drilling mud disposal pits during 2014, rather than waiting until the planned 2016 inspection, due to the 6.6 - 7.9 magnitude earthquakes that occurred near Amchitka on June 23-24. John Halverson
11/4/2014 Update or Other Action DOE held an Amchitka stakeholders working group meeting in Anchorage. It presented slides on a Preliminary Assessment of the Mud Pit Caps on Amchitka Island After 7.9M earthquake in June 2014. Of the seven disposal pits that have engineered caps, two (Cannikin North and South) had no damage, three (Long Shot, Rifle Range, and Site F) had minor damage, and two (Site E and Site D) sustained major damage. There was no evidence of any discharge of drilling mud from any of the disposal pits, however, there was significant slope failure and sloughing of cover material on portions of the sites; the underlying synthetic cover is exposed in areas on Site D. Damage was also evident along infantry road (miles 4 and 8) and on Fox runway. Potential response options and schedules were discussed. John Halverson
12/23/2015 Site Reopened The site status has been changed to Active due to the damage caused to the caps and cover material over several of the drilling mud disposal pits. Corrective action is necessary. John Halverson
7/7/2016 Update or Other Action DEC sent a letter to DOE commenting on an "Alternatives Analysis Amchitka Island Mud Pit Cap Repair" report, dated January 2016, and requesting a response by August 15, 2016 outlining DOE's plans for corrective actions and a schedule for completing the repairs by November 30, 2018. John Halverson
8/17/2016 Update or Other Action DOE submitted a response to DEC's July 7th letter. It proposed conducting further survey work, geotechnical study, contaminant characterization, reporting and annual inspections through 2019. John Halverson
9/22/2016 Update or Other Action Amchitka stakeholders meeting to discuss the drilling mud pit caps and DOE's proposed response. DOE's contractor to conduct additional review of original disposal pit engineering and design and the as-built and post construction information to assess field changes that occurred. John Halverson
1/26/2017 Update or Other Action DOE submitted an updated approach to repairing the damaged mud pit disposal caps. It includes conducting additional survey and geotechnical investigation, but not contaminant characterization of the disposal pit wastes or risk assessment. The objective is to ensure proper containment by relocating waste from pits at Site E and Site F to Site D, design and reconstruction of Site D, and repair of minor damage to covers at the Rifle Range and Long Shot pits. Annual inspections and data collection in 2017-18; inspection, design and corrective action plan 2019. John Halverson
11/17/2017 Report or Workplan Review - Other Staff provided comments to the October 2017 Working Draft Project Plan to Address Earthquake Damage at the Amchitka, Alaska, Site Mud Pits Wendy Hansen
12/6/2017 Meeting or Teleconference Held Staff participated in a work group chemical scoping meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss path forward to address 2014 earthquake damage. The DOE's objective is to reduce long-term inspection and maintenance costs associated with the mud pits while also performing any needed repairs and maintaining protectiveness. To accomplish this, the proposal is to collect both chemical and geotechnical data in 2018 to inform decisions. The purpose of the chemical data would be to support human health and ecological risk assessments with the goal of obtaining no further action without, or with, institutional controls. The purpose of the geotechnical data would be to support any future corrective actions that might be determined necessary based on results of the risk assessments. Wendy Hansen
12/27/2017 Meeting or Teleconference Held Staff participated in a planning meeting for chemical sampling of the mud pits. The discussion focused primarily on the proposed incremental sampling with some discussion of the target analyte list. Wendy Hansen
1/11/2018 Meeting or Teleconference Held Staff participated in a meeting with DOE, FWS, and contractors to discuss chemical sampling of the mud pits planned for 2018 (multi-incremental sampling; analyte list; eco risk). Wendy Hansen
1/18/2018 Update or Other Action The chemical sampling planned for 2018 is being delayed to 2019, with DEC concurrence. The mud pits will be inspected in 2018. Wendy Hansen
2/5/2018 Meeting or Teleconference Held Staff participated in a meeting with DOE, FWS and contractors. An ERA work plan is in progress and will include an assessment of 1998 data collected from drilling muds prior to mixing and capping to help assess whether risk will be acceptable with input of new chemical data planned for collection. The 1998 data will be evaluated "as is" which is expected to be a bias high representation. It will also be "extrapolated" based on mixing ratios to provide an indication of risk posed in the current mixed condition. The data may also be used to limit the analyte list with regard to what parameters may drive risk. Wendy Hansen
4/27/2018 Update or Other Action The DOE provided a project update, and has scheduled an annual inspection for mid-August 2018. 2016 sampling results are pending. The DOE is evaluating approach for the mud pits with regard to proceed with repair or collect chemical analytical data to characterize the contents and evaluate risk. Wendy Hansen
6/14/2018 Update or Other Action The DOE scheduled a group meeting for July 18, 2018 to discuss a preliminary risk analysis for the mud pits based on historical data, and path forward with regard to mud pit repair and/or chemical sampling. The meeting will be held at DEC and include representatives from DOE, USFWS, Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association (API) and various contractors. Wendy Hansen
7/18/2018 Meeting or Teleconference Held Staff participated in a work group meeting with DOE, API, and contractors. The DOE proposed using available 1998 chemical data to re-evaluate the existing remedy for the mud pits and potentially achieve Cleanup Complete with Institutional Controls (versus collecting new data as initially planned). It was determined that specific identified data gaps for chemicals not analyzed for in 1998 (e.g., PCB and lead) would need to be filled. The 1998 data has not yet been fully evaluated to determine whether it would otherwise be accepted for use. Based on the meeting, the DOE plans to document the current understanding between parties regarding expectations/options for addressing 2014 earthquake damage to the mud pits and determine a path forward (e.g., repair of mud pits under current remedy or chemical sampling and evaluation of data for potential closure with or without institutional controls). Wendy Hansen

Contaminant Information

Name Level Description Media Comments
DRO > Human Health/Ingestion/Inhalation Soil DRO and low level PCB contaminated soil/drilling mud was stabilized and capped in place.
PCBs - Total Other Soil Low level PCB contaminated soil was stabilized and capped in place.

Control Type

Type Details
Land Use Plan / Maps / Base Master Plan DOE has a Long Term Surveillence and Maintence Plan and a Post Closure Monitoring and Inspection Plan for Corrective Action Unit 1020, Amchitka Island Mud Pit Release Sites. Site inspections will be conducted at least every 5-years for a minimum of thirty years. DOE is working with USFW Service, the land manager, to incorporate ICs into the refuge plan.


Description Details
Advance approval required to transport soil or groundwater off-site.
Excavation / Soil Movement Restrictions The engineered cap over the drilling mud disposal pits needs to be maintained. Disturbance of the caps is prohibited.

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