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Site Report: Alaska Gold Company New Gold House


Site Name: Alaska Gold Company New Gold House
Address: New Gold House, Nome, AK 99762
File Number: 400.38.028
Hazard ID: 295
Status: Active
Staff: Robert Burgess, 9074512153 robert.burgess@alaska.gov
Latitude: 64.503760
Longitude: -165.402348
Horizontal Datum:WGS84

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.

Problems/Comments

Gold processing operations in the 1970s used mercury amalgamation and retort to recover gold from ore. Processed tailings were left behind and contain mercury and concentrated arsenic. The building and associated structures were removed in 2004; free mercury was discovered beneath the building and was removed at that time. Subsequent sampling has delineated mercury and arsenic in soil, and detected mercury, arsenic, and methylmercury in sediments from the nearby Dry Creek, an anadromous stream, and a seasonally flooded wetlands area.

Action Information

Action Date Action Description DEC Staff
3/5/1999 Site Ranked Using the AHRM By staff. Deborah Williams
3/5/1999 Update or Other Action Alaska Gold Company submitted a report entitled "Remedial Action Plan for the New Gold House" dated 12/13/88. The RP gave a verbal request to close the site based on the report submitted. Deborah Williams
4/30/1999 Update or Other Action ADEC sent letter to Alaska Gold Company stating that sampling of the surface water and groundwater must be conducted. The RP had requested "capping the contaminated soil" as the remedial option. ADEC stated that it was unlikely this would be approved given the site's close proximity to water. Deborah Williams
9/17/1999 Site Added to Database Mercury and Arsenic Contamination. Deborah Williams
11/26/2004 GIS Position Updated Source of information is TopoZone Pro and All topo maps. NAD 27 using site map as a reference. Deborah Williams
8/10/2006 Update or Other Action ADEC drafted a letter to Doug Nicholson of Alaska Gold Company requesting that they submit a plan for conducting additional characterization for the site prior to September 15, 2006. Deborah Williams
10/26/2006 Update or Other Action Received a telephone call from Charolette MacCay with Bristol Environmental regarding cleanup actions completed to date at the New Gold House. According to Charolette, the mine is an 80 year old mine and Nova Gold purchased the mine six years ago. They have been working on cleaning up the site as that have a budget to do so. They took down the building and shipped off any hazardous materials within in the building. Another summer they treated the water and removed the water tank. Another summer they also removed the hot spot discrete tailing piles in the area with high mercury. There are still areas of high mercury in the soil in the area. She stated that they may want to complete a pilot study at the site that would involve gravity mining the ore piles to try and remove the majority of the mercury. They are planning a meeting with ADEC on November 9th to discuss future actions. Deborah Williams
11/10/2006 Update or Other Action ADEC received the New Gold House Activities Report. According to the report, the Gold House was removed along with the hazardous chemicals and free mercury that was found in the building. The floor of the building was also shipped out as contaminated with mercury. Piles of ore with free mercury that were located inside the building as well as outside the building were also shipped out to be retorted. After demolition activities were completed, Bristol performed a soil characterization at the former New Gold House Site. The soil characterization indicated mercury levels from 0.567 to 453 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) and arsenic levels from 28.9 to 46,800 mg/kg. The highest concentrations of arsenic and mercury were detected on the north and west sides of the former building. (Williams) Deborah Williams
12/15/2006 Update or Other Action ADEC drafted a letter to Charlotte MacCay (Bristol) in response to the report that was submitted. ADEC requested additional site characterization and clarification on the draft CSM that was submitted. ADEC also requested that they consider controls for the property such as installing a fence around the perimeter of the site in order to prevent any exposure to receptors until a long-term solution is implemented. Deborah Williams
3/7/2007 Exposure Tracking Model Ranking Initial ranking completed. Deborah Williams
5/18/2007 Update or Other Action ADEC received a institutional control workplan to install a fence around the perimeter of the of the mercury contaminated surface soil. Bristol plans to install the fencing no later than September 2007. Deborah Williams
12/7/2007 Update or Other Action Requested update on the status of the fence. Received reply from Brent Murphy from Novagold who will be sending a report on the installation of the fence that took place during the fall of 2007. Brent Murphy is the new contact from Novagold. Tamara Cardona-Marek
3/19/2008 Meeting or Teleconference Held Met with Brent Murphy from Novagold. An updated report will be provided to DEC with all actions taken at the Alaska Gold House property. Awaiting report. Tamara Cardona-Marek
8/18/2008 Update or Other Action New contact for Novagold: Mitch Henning. Letter sent to new contact requesting status of the fence and additional site characterization. Tamara Cardona-Marek
9/11/2008 Site Visit Visited site and met with Novagold representatives and DHSS. Discussed actions needed on site. Also met (during a separate meeting) with concerned citizens in Nome and discussed issues with site and expected actions. Tamara Cardona-Marek
12/18/2008 Update or Other Action ADEC received photographs showing new signs posted on the fence of the New Gold House Property. Signs indicate "danger". Tamara Cardona-Marek
12/22/2008 Update or Other Action ADEC sent letter to NovaGold requesting update on sites. Tamara Cardona-Marek
2/25/2009 Update or Other Action Received call from Mitch Henning from NovaGold. He is attending budget meetings this week at the NovaGold Headquarters in Vancouver and will be submitting a response to DEC within the next few days. Tamara Cardona-Marek
3/16/2009 Update or Other Action ADEC received a letter from NovaGold with an update regarding their plans to cleanup the New Gold House Site. The idea is to develop a plan to cleanup the area based on the concept of reclamation. They will also look at the potential to enhance fish habitat in the area. No updates were provided on other NovaGold sites or the submission of a workplan for site characterization. Tamara Cardona-Marek
5/4/2009 Update or Other Action ADEC received from Novagold correpondence indicating their intentions for submitting a workplan for site characterization at the Alaska Gold New Gold House site and other Alaska Gold sites. Bristol Environmental is Novagold's consulting firm, they will be submitting a workplan for work in 2009 sampling season. Tamara Cardona-Marek
5/22/2009 Update or Other Action ADEC received communication from Bristol Environmental indicating they are submitting a proposal to Alaska Gold for site characterization of the New Gold House. Official communication with the proposed plan has not been received yet. Tamara Cardona-Marek
8/7/2009 Report or Workplan Review - Other DEC received work plan for site characterization. DEC plans to discuss work plan with consultant on 8/10. Tamara Cardona-Marek
8/7/2009 Exposure Tracking Model Ranking A new updated ranking with ETM has been completed for source area 71274 mercury and arsenic contamination. Tamara Cardona-Marek
8/21/2009 Proposed Plan Bristol Environmental has submitted a work plan for additional characterization of the Alaska Gold House site and Dry Creek. Discussions are taking place to modify the work plan as needed. Tamara Cardona-Marek
4/8/2010 Report or Workplan Review - Other DEC received the 2009 Soil Investigation Report from Bristol Environmental. 34 soil borings were advanced with a geoprobe, surface water and sediment samples were also collected. Highest analyzed mercury concentration in the soil was 49 ppm; highest arsenic was 2450. No adequate correlation between screening instrument and laboratory results was observed. Surface water samples were below the water quality criteria for the state of Alaska. DEC believes the investigation is not adequate enough the estimate the amount of Hg in the area, particularly since resulta are significantly different from the characterization done in 2006. Tamara Cardona-Marek
12/15/2010 Meeting or Teleconference Held DEC met with NovaGold. NovaGold discussed the results of a benchscale project to immobilize mercury from the soil of the New Gold House site. No workplan has been submitted for work. Tamara Cardona-Marek
6/20/2011 Report or Workplan Review - Other DEC received a Site Characterization Summary and Background Arsenic Summary from GeoEngineers. Site Characterization Summary evaluates the usefulness of the available data and summarizes the current conceptual site model. Tamara Cardona-Marek
7/18/2011 Report or Workplan Review - Other DEC received from GeoEngineers the Supplemental Site Characterization Work Plan. Work Plan proposes to install 21 soil borings to be sampled for mercury, arsenic, and petroleum compounds. Sediment , surface water, and groundwater sampling will also be completed. Tamara Cardona-Marek
7/27/2011 Meeting or Teleconference Held DEC discussed with NovaGold and Geoengineers the submitted Supplemental Site Characetrization Work Plan. GeoEngineers will submit discussed revisions and additions to the work plan. Tamara Cardona-Marek
8/1/2011 Report or Workplan Review - Other DEC provided comments on the Site Characterization Summary. Tamara Cardona-Marek
5/24/2012 Meeting or Teleconference Held DEC met with Novagold and their consultants to briefly discuss the findings of the sampling conducted during the 2011 field season. Tamara Cardona-Marek
5/29/2012 Report or Workplan Review - Other DEC received the GeoEngineers Supplemental Site Characterization Summary. Tamara Cardona-Marek
8/3/2012 Report or Workplan Review - Other DEC received the final supplemental site characterization summary report from GeoEngineers. Robert Burgess
9/11/2012 Site Visit DEC visited site during installation of monitoring wells. Some of the well locations have been modified to account for high water table in some areas and permafrost in others. Tamara Cardona-Marek
2/8/2013 Report or Workplan Review - Other DEC received the Groundwater Well Installation and Monitoring Summary for the Former New Gold House and 6th avenue sites Robert Burgess
3/8/2013 Report or Workplan Review - Other DEC received the Surface soil removal report: Nome legacy sites dated Feb. 2013 Robert Burgess
4/1/2013 Report or Workplan Review - Other DEC received the Groundwater Sampling and Analysis plan for the Former New Gold House and 6th Avenue sites Robert Burgess
4/15/2013 Report or Workplan Review - Other DEC received the Cleanup Techniques Evaluation report from GeoEngineers Robert Burgess
5/16/2013 Meeting or Teleconference Held DEC met with NovaGold and GeoEngineers to discuss the current status of the site and proposed future work. Mercury contamination and high levels of arsenic exist in the soil beneath the former gold house location but groundwater does not appear to be affected at this time. Mercury was also detected in sediment from dry creek. Petroleum hydrocarbon contamination exists in soil and groundwater and is attributable to upgradient sources. GeoEngineers has proposed a soil cap and ongoing groundwater monitoring at the site as a remedial strategy. NovaGold has expressed concern with any remedial activity necessitating soil disturbance as they claim that it has the potential to adversely affect the petroleum contamination associated with the adjacent former power plant (6th avenue) site. Robert Burgess
6/18/2013 Exposure Tracking Model Ranking A new updated ranking with ETM has been completed for source area 71274 mercury and arsenic contamination. Robert Burgess
7/18/2013 Meeting or Teleconference Held DEC met with NovaGold, Oasis, GeoEngineers, and representatives of Bering Straits Native Corporation and the City of Nome to discuss the Former Alaska Gold Power Plant (400.38.040) and the New Gold House sites. DEC shared concerns about mercury fate and transport and the detections of mercury and methylmercury in Dry Creek sediments, as well as the potential for a proposed in situ cap to increase the rates of methylation of mercury. Work to be conducted in the near future includes groundwater monitoring, re-sampling of sediments using grab samples or sub-sampled cores to focus on the biologically active layer of sediments (upper 10 cm), and ecoscoping to determine if impacts to the ecosystem need further investigation. The installation of additional monitoring wells to provide additional delineation of the hydrocarbon plume was also discussed, and will likely require further discussion. Robert Burgess
7/19/2013 Update or Other Action Site symbol relocated using ArcGIS and BING satellite imagery Robert Burgess
8/1/2013 Update or Other Action DEC sent a letter to NovaGold that included a summary of DEC's concerns and decisions made in the July 18 meeting regarding upcoming work at the Gold House and Power Plant sites. The letter also included additional comments on work performed and expectations of future work to be conducted at both sites. Robert Burgess
9/5/2013 Site Characterization Workplan Approved DEC reviewed and commented on the 2013 Sampling and Analysis Plan for the Gold House and 6th avenue Power Plant sites. After response to comments and further discussion, the plan was approved with revisions. Monitoring wells will be sampled for mercury, arsenic, and petroleum hydrocarbons on the Gold House site, and for petroleum hydrocarbons only on the Power Plant site. Dry Creek sediments will be sampled for mercury, methyl mercury, and petroleum hydrocarbons in particular areas. Sediment samples will target the upper 10 cm of sediment for accurate methyl mercury results. Robert Burgess
9/9/2013 Site Visit DEC project managers visited the Power Plant and New Gold House sites. At the New Gold House, DEC project managers walked along Dry Creek with GeoEngineers project staff in order to locate sediment sampling locations. Five sampling locations were identified in the stream, and it was agreed that an additional sample could be taken from the pond. Adult salmon and unidentified minnows were observed in the creek during the visit. Robert Burgess
9/10/2013 Site Visit DEC project manager visited the New Gold House to observe sediment and surface water sampling. Samples were successfully obtained with a hand-held sampling scoop in all five agreed-upon locations, the pond, and an additional upstream location for comparison. Sediment samples will be analyzed for all COCs, including mercury, methylmercury, arsenic, BTEX, GRO, DRO, and RRO. Two surface water samples were also taken. Robert Burgess
3/4/2014 Report or Workplan Review - Other DEC reviewed the 2013 Groundwater, Surface Water, and Sediment Monitoring Summary report for the Former New Gold House and 6th Avenue (Former AK Gold Power Plant) sites. Sample results indicate that mercury, arsenic, and DRO contamination are present above screening levels in Dry Creek sediments near the mercury and arsenic source area. Methylmercury was also present in sediment samples and samples closer to the source area and with higher concentrations of total mercury were higher in methylmercury concentration. Arsenic was also detected above surface water criteria in the surface water sample nearest to the source area and co-located with the sediment samples with the highest contaminant concentrations. Sediments from the pond had the highest arsenic concentration. In addition, wells GMW1R and MW-5 increased in DRO concentration relative to the previous sampling event in 2012, and contained DRO concentrations above cleanup levels. The groundwater gradient flowed more to the west than the gradient calculated in 2012, indicating possible variations in groundwater flow. Robert Burgess
4/3/2014 Meeting or Teleconference Held Meeting with ADEC, NovaGold, Bering Straits Native Corporation, and City of Nome. NovaGold requested meeting with ADEC Commissioner to discuss status of Former Alaska Gold New Gold House and Former Alaska Gold Powerplant. NovaGold recently sold their subsidiary, Alaska Gold Company, to Bering Straits Native Corporation. NovaGold plans to complete cleanup at the New Gold House site but does not plan to conduct additional characterization of cleanup work at the former Powerplant site. Discussions centered around City of Nome's plans regarding the former Powerplant site and NovaGold's plans to cap mercury contaminated soil at the New Gold House site. Janice Wiegers
6/16/2014 Report or Workplan Review - Other DEC received and reviewed the Updated Cleanup Techniques Evaluation (Feasibility Study) and Ecoscoping document. The report re-evaluates cleanup options and provides cost and effectiveness summaries. The suggested technique is to cap the contamination in place. The Ecoscoping document does not evaluate aquatic receptors despite mercury and arsenic being detected in stream sediments and the pond and wetlands. Robert Burgess
9/13/2014 Update or Other Action DEC sent a letter replying to the June 2, 2014 Updated Cleanup Techniques Evaluation (Feasibility Study) and Ecoscoping document submitted by NovaGold. The letter indicated that the selected remedy cannot be implemented at this time because the ecoscoping document submitted with the report did not take any "off ramps," indicating that ecological risk needs further evaluation. DEC requested a screening-level ecological risk assessment (SLERA) be conducted at the site. Robert Burgess
9/15/2014 Report or Workplan Review - Other DEC approved the 2014 Groundwater, Sediment and Surface Water Sampling and Analysis plan after review and comment resolution. Groundwater will be sampled for petroleum, mercury, methylmercury, and arsenic. Sediment samples from the stream will be analyzed for mercury, methylmercury, and arsenic; selected sediment samples near the petroleum contamination will also be analyzed for DRO. Additional sediment samples from the wetlands area will be taken as well and analyzed for the same consituents along with co-located surface water samples. Robert Burgess
11/18/2014 Report or Workplan Review - Other ADEC commented on the "SLERA approach, Annotated Outline" document submitted by GeoEngineers and NovaGold. The document describes general approaches to performing a screening level ecological risk assessment but does not constitute a complete workplan. DEC comments include that additional sediment data is warranted, especially in the wetlands area, that additional information on sormwater surge and stream hydrology is needed, and that all contaminants of concern or potential concern, including petroleum-related constituents allegedly from an upgradient source, must be taken into account to calculate risk. Robert Burgess
3/18/2015 Report or Workplan Review - Other DEC reviewed and provided comments to the 2014 Groundwater, Surface Water, and Sediment Monitoring Summary Report and the Hydrographic Reconnaissance Summary of Findings. Comments included reiterating that extreme storm and flooding events must be taken into account when evaluating risk and remedies for the site, as well as a discussion of appropriate ecological screening levels based on DEC's water quality criteria manual. Robert Burgess
7/27/2015 Update or Other Action DEC received a letter from NovaGold that indicated that they "do not see the value in continuing to purse a risk assessment" for the site. Robert Burgess
8/24/2015 Exposure Tracking Model Ranking A new updated ranking with ETM has been completed for source area 71274 mercury and arsenic contamination. Robert Burgess
9/2/2015 Update or Other Action DEC sent a letter responding to NovaGold's letter dated July 27, 2015. The response highlighted the importance of a risk assessment and the regulatory obligation to perform one. Robert Burgess
9/15/2015 Site Visit DEC project manager visited the site to observe sediment, surface water, and groundwater sampling. During the site visit, several adult salmon were seen swimming upstream and gathering at the pool below the culvert under Nome Bypass Road. Juvenile and fry salmonids as well as sculpin were also seen in various locations throughout the stream, with the largest fish and greatest number near the source area and the sediment sample with highest mercury and arsenic concentrations. In addition, several Nome residents were observed harvesting salmon at various locations in the stream. Robert Burgess
12/14/2015 Meeting or Teleconference Held DEC met with NovaGold to discuss the status of the site based on recent data, ecological risk assessment, and cleanup options. DEC noted that current arsenic data for groundwater suggests that it may be mobile and a cap may not be protective for this contaminant. DEC also reiterated the need for a work plan describing how the screening level ecological risk assessment (SLERA) will be conducted. Robert Burgess
2/23/2016 Update or Other Action DEC sent a letter to NovaGold to follow up on the December 14, 2015 meeting. The letter included a request for excavation of contaminated source area soils based on the apparent mobility of arsenic in groundwater and site conditions that may contribute to arsenic mobilization and mercury methylation. The letter requested a response by April 4, 2016. Robert Burgess
5/11/2016 Update or Other Action DEC received a response to the February 23rd letter that included a deadline for response of April 4, 2016. Included with the letter was the draft 2015 Groundwater, Surface Water, and Sediment Monitoring Summary report. Robert Burgess
6/28/2016 Meeting or Teleconference Held DEC met with Max Schwenne, hired as a facilitator by NovaGold, to discuss site needs. DEC emphasized the importance of an understanding of the hydrological system of the stream and wetlands, including a seasonal analysis of groundwater elevation and flow direction, improved understanding of seasonal or storm-related flooding events, and geochemical conditions that may affect the fate and transport of contaminants. DEC also stressed the need for ecological risk assessment as had been previously agreed to. Mr. Schwenne agreed to discuss the site needs with NovaGold and requested that DEC hold off on responses to letters until receiving an update from NovaGold. Robert Burgess
9/20/2016 Report or Workplan Review - Other DEC provided comments to the Draft 2016 Sampling and Analysis Plan, following telephone conversations with NovaGold's consultants. Minor revisions were requested, including the addition of two sediment sampling locations. Following NovaGold's agreement to make the changes, conditional approval of the email was granted contingent upon receiving a revised final version. Robert Burgess
9/30/2016 Site Characterization Workplan Approved Following receipt of a revised Final 2016 Sampling and Analysis Plan, DEC reviewed the plan to document that requested revisions were made and issued a formal approval letter. Robert Burgess
10/5/2016 Site Visit DEC project manager visited the site to observe collection of sediment and surface water samples. Water levels in the Dry Creek floodplain were much higher than documented during previous mobilizations and areas near the source area were saturated. Robert Burgess
12/12/2016 Report or Workplan Review - Other DEC received the final 2015 Monitoring Summary. Robert Burgess
12/13/2016 Meeting or Teleconference Held DEC met with NovaGold for a pre-scoping meeting. The goal of the meeting was to come to agreement on major points of continuing work, including risk assessment and long-term monitoring, in order to further support implementation of NovaGold's preferred remedy of a remedial soil cap. Robert Burgess

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