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Site Report: Bethel Airport (former)

Site Name: Bethel Airport (former)
Address: Kuskokwim River, SE of, Bethel - Across the River, Bethel, AK 99559
File Number: 2407.38.006
Hazard ID: 69
Status: Active
Staff: Gretchen Caudill,
Latitude: 60.759165
Longitude: -161.708828
Horizontal Datum:

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 Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) began buidling the former Bethel Airport in the early 1940s on the east side of the Kuskokwim River, across the river from Bethel. In 1942, the US Army took over construction during World War II as part of the national defense effort. A runway, housing areas, hospital, power plant and other supporting facilities were built. Several thousand drums of asphalt were sent to the site to repave the runway, however, the project was never completed and the drums were left along the river bank. In 1947 the Army turned the facility back over to the CAA. Which then operated and maintained the airport. In 1951, 1,853 acres of land was acquired by the Air Force, under a use permit from the CAA, for development and operation of an Aircraft Control and Warning (AC&W) site, a radio relay site, and a air transportation operations site. Some WWII facilities were renovated and used and other new facilities were constructed. In the mid- to late 1950's the Air Force moved the AC&W and radio relay operations to a new location west of Bethel and turned the former Bethel Airport back to FAA (successor to CAA). Subsequent land transfers have occurred under the ANCSA. A portion of the former airport is owned by the Bethel Native Corporation. Several native allotements exist in the area. In 1994, drums of asphalt were reported to be eroding into the Kuskokwim River. The Army Corps of Engineers conducted removal actions in 1994-95, which included removing over 5,000 drums of asphalt from the river bank and disposing of the material off-site. Additional site investigation is warranted. FUDS # F10AK0514 The FAA is also conducting work at the Former Bethel Airport. See file number 2407.38.001.

Action Information

Action Date Action Description DEC Staff
2/15/1989 Update or Other Action (Old R:Base Action Code = FI - Field Inspection (General)). ADEC Hazardous waste generation and shipment report to record generation of hazardous waste in 1988. No information regarding type of hazardous waste. No Longer Assigned
1/7/1991 Site Number Identifier Changed Old Reckey 1981210912710. Changed to reflect correct region. No Longer Assigned
5/7/1991 Site Added to Database Asphalt drums. No Longer Assigned
8/9/1991 Site Number Identifier Changed Changed region from 22 to 25 to reflect Western district now. No Longer Assigned
6/6/1994 Update or Other Action Bethel field office received a citizen complaint that drums of asphalt and asphalt are eroding into the Kuskokwim River. John Halverson
10/11/1994 Update or Other Action ADEC provided comments to the Corps on a draft workplan for removing the drums and cleaning up the asphalt. Contractor was mobilizing to the field as the plans were evolving. No formal ADEC approval on the workplan. Cleanup conducted during the winter. Recovered drums and asphalt staged on the old airfield. John Halverson
6/9/1995 Update or Other Action Corps notified ADEC that the airfield flooded during spring breakup, numerous boxes containing drums, asphalt and contaminated soil were damaged; contractor is working on containment; no report of materials being washed away. John Halverson
6/15/1995 Site Ranked Using the AHRM Initial ranking. Action code added because it wasn't when site was originally ranked. John Halverson
10/10/1995 Update or Other Action Corps notified ADEC that it has inspected the site and is compiling a Remedial Investigation in-house and that it does not think significant areas of concern exist. Corps stated that ~165 drums containing petroleum products are present behind the old Crowley site. The drums are dated 1951, thus Corps thinks they are from the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) and the FAA should be responsible for them. Also, found a couple old landfills at the site. John Halverson
4/18/1996 Update or Other Action ADEC received the Remedial Action Report, Bethel Airport Drum Removal, prepared by Nugget Construction and dated March 21, 1996. John Halverson
6/11/1996 Update or Other Action ADEC sent a letter to the Corps requesting additional information that was lacking in the remedial action report, including: figures that were missing from the report; clarification on the extent of asphalt and drums that were left at the site and possibly down-river; certificates of disposal for waste shipped off-site; details on site restoration and efforts to minimize future erosion. John Halverson
1/10/1997 Update or Other Action Corps of Engineers finalized an Environmental Assessment (EA) and finding of no significant impact (FONSI) under NEPA. The EA addressed a proposed removal action to address physical safety hazards at the site (fill in mechanics pits and hand dug wells, remove barbed wire, flatten the top of an underground tank that had split open. It called for addressing the remainder of the site and possible contaminants at a later date. John Halverson
11/9/1999 Site Ranked Using the AHRM Re-ranked site by filling in many entries that were listed as unknown previously. Ranked as "Medium" Priority. John Halverson
12/30/2002 Update or Other Action Staff reviewed a Site Assessment done under NALEMP dated February 11, 1998 for a site inspection June 1997. Drum, metal debris, underground structures and an asphalt plant remain on site. Debra Caillouet
9/20/2006 Record of Decision DEC signed a decision document concurring that the Corps has completed the Containerized Waste/Hazardous Toxic or Radiological Waste (CON/HTRW) project. The Corps removed all known DOD related drums during the mid 1990's. An HTRW project remains open and further evaluation into whether any FUDS Program eligible contaminants remain at the site and warrant further cleanup. John Halverson
6/10/2008 Exposure Tracking Model Ranking Initial ranking with ETM completed. Evonne Reese
11/21/2014 Potentially Responsible Party/State Interest Letter DEC sent a PRP letter to FAA notifying it of liability for abandoned drums containing asphalt and possibly other wastes at the site and requesting it conduct a removal action to collect and contain the drums and remove them from the site for proper recycling or disposal. A written response was requested by January 9, 2015. John Halverson
12/3/2014 Report or Workplan Review - Other Comment was sent on the Draft Work Plan, Remedial Investigation and CON/HTRW Limited Removal at the Bethel Airport, Bethel Staging Field, and Bethel BIA Headquarters, November 2014 Debra Caillouet
4/1/2015 CERCLA RI Plan Approved DEC Approved the Final Work Plan, Remedial Investigation and Limited Removal at the Bethel Airport and Bethel BIA Headquarters, Bethel, Alaska. Debra Caillouet
2/11/2016 CERCLA RI Plan Approved DEC approved the Final Work Plan Addendum, Remedial Investigation and Limited Removal at the Bethel Airport and Bethel BIA Headquarters, Bethel, Alaska. The workplan addendum details the work that is to be conducted in the winter of 2016 that was not completed during the original site work performed during June-July of 2015 due to site conditions at the Bethel Airport FUDS location. The completion of these objectives at the Bethel Airport FUDS will include Performing ultraviolet optical screening tool (UVOST) field screening, collection of surface and subsurface soil samples, installation of monitoring wells, collection of groundwater samples, and completion of a survey detailing the well locations, well elevations, and control points. Five distinct features within the former Infantry Area of the Bethel Airport FUDS will be investigated under the Work Plan Addendum. The features include the former Power House, the underground storage tank (UST) associated with the former Power House, the former Auto Repair Shop, the former Motor Repair Shop, and an additional aboveground storage tank (AST). Field activities are proposed to begin in February of 2016 and be completed in March of 2016. Groundwater sampling is anticipated to occur in June of 2016. Monte Garroutte
12/1/2016 Meeting or Teleconference Held CS managers participate in the annual FUDS site management action plan meeting. The purpose of the is to collaborate with FUDS management on site progress and prioritization for all of the formerly used defense sites. FUDS prioritization is based on risk, congressional interest, state input and proximity to other sites on the prioritization list. FUDS has increased environmental restoration funding in Alaska for the 2017 and 2018 field seasons to meet National goals for site progress. Darren Mulkey
4/11/2017 Report or Workplan Review - Other DEC completed a review of the Draft RI report for the Bethel Airport sites. Monte Garroutte
5/25/2017 Report or Workplan Review - Other DEC Approval - Remedial Investigation and Limited Removal Report for the Bethel Airport and Bethel BIA Headquarters, FUDS. Investigation results suggest the extent of contamination at the Bethel Airport FUDS is limited to one exceedance of DRO, and six locations where either PAHs (naphthalene) or VOCs (vinyl chloride, 1,2-Dichloroethane). These exceedances occurred in the Auto Repair Shop and Motor Repair Shop Areas, though one location of potential POL contamination (unconfirmed) was indicated by UVOST screening in the UST at Power House Area. Depth of contamination is limited to 2.5 ft bgs for DRO and 8.5 ft bgs in two locations for VOCs. Further delineation work remains for several sites. See 2407.38.007 for details on FUDS Bethel BIA HQ. Gretchen Caudill
12/21/2017 Report or Workplan Review - Other DEC Approval - FAA Final Work Plan Former Bethel Airport Infrastructure Removal & Release Investigation. This work plan details the removal activities of FAA infrastructures, release investigation, and remedial action to be conducted at the FAA infrastructure in the city of Bethel and the Former Bethel Airport. The primary objective of the scope of work during the first mobilization will be to remove the 164 drums from the former Bethel Airport. The second mobilization will include infrastructure removals and RI/RA actions. Gretchen Caudill

Contaminant Information

Name Level Description Media Comments

Control Type

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Description Details

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