Brownfield Newsletter

Revitalizing Communities through the Recycling of Contaminated Properties

Vol. 11-1 ~ Fall 2011


John B. Carnahan
Brownfield Coordinator

Sonja L. Benson
Brownfield Program Specialist

Melinda S. Brunner
Brownfield Program Specialist

Contaminated Sites Program
Division of Spill Prevention and Response
610 University Avenue
Fairbanks, Alaska 99709
Phone: (907) 451-2166
Facsimile: (907) 451-2155


DEC Brownfield Webpage
Contaminated Sites Webpage


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Welcome to the Fall 2011 edition of the DEC Brownfield Bulletin!

This has been another busy year for DEC’s Reuse and Redevelopment (R&R) Program. We completed seven brownfield assessments last year, and are in the planning stages for two follow-up cleanups at past project sites. We are thrilled to see the successful revitalization of some of our past brownfield project sites, including the new McGrath community center, which is highlighted in this issue; a new village store in Hooper Bay now sits on the site of a burned-down former school, and in Toksook Bay, a new Early Childhood Learning Center is almost complete on a former airport apron. We look forward to bringing you more of these stories in future newsletters. Community gardens continue to be one of our special focus areas for the reuse of certain types of brownfields. We’ll be at the Alaska Tribal Conference on Environmental Management again this fall, and one of our sessions will be “From Brown to Green: Community Gardens, Greenhouses, and Food Security in Rural Alaska.”

We’d like to congratulate Zender Environmental Health and Research Group, based in Anchorage, on their recent award of an Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training Grant from EPA. Their successful proposal is a wonderful accomplishment, but, as we all know, their work is just beginning. We look forward to helping support Zender as they implement this important new training program. The new proposal period for EPA’s FY2012 Brownfield Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup Grants is now open. Deadline for proposals is November 28, 2011. See more in the Brownfield Calendar, below.

We’ve seen some transition in our R&R Program with the departure to New Mexico of Deborah Williams. Deb was a great asset to our program and she is missed not only by everyone in our office but people we work with around the state. The good news is our new staff person, Melinda Brunner, is picking up where Deb left off and quickly coming up to speed. Read more about her in this issue, and welcome aboard, Melinda!

We hope you enjoy this edition of our newsletter and, as always, keep in touch.

Best regards,

Sonja Benson
Brownfield Program Specialist

In this issue:

New McGrath Community Center on the Rise

On December 24, 2006, the McGrath Native Village Council (MNVC) Tribal Hall, also known as the Chamai Center, burned to the ground. The center housed office space for tribal activities, and served as a gathering place for community events. The loss of the center was felt throughout McGrath.

MNVC actively pursued partnerships with the City of McGrath, Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC), the Interior Regional Housing Authority (IRHA), the Alaska Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program, and DEC to secure funding and assistance to clean up the site and build a new multi-purpose community center. Jeff Weltzin, through TCC, helped the community leverage funds from an array of funding sources, including a legislative appropriation, the CDBG, and other sources. Matilda (Tilly) Dull, former tribal administrator for the MNVC, worked with Jeff on a grant proposal to the Indian Community Development Block Grant Program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Natalie Baumgartner, administrator for the City of McGrath, has worked diligently with Judy Haymaker of the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development to keep up with the reporting required for the CDBG. Some money was also secured from the insurance policy for the former facility.

“This project was a long time in the making, and we owe this success to the strong collaboration among all the parties involved,” said IRHA’s Paul Snow. Paul also recognized the efforts of the project foreman, Billy Vanborg, who is from McGrath and now lives in Fairbanks for keeping the project ahead of schedule and under budget, an incredibly rare occurrence for a project of this size and scope.

As highlighted in our Summer 2009 Brownfield Bulletin, DEC provided a DEC Brownfield Assessment (DBA) of the site in 2008 in response to a request from the MNVC. The DBA included removing an underground storage tank and a small volume of contaminated soil, and collection of confirmation samples to make sure the remaining soil was clean enough to support reuse of the site. The new community center is now on track for a December opening, with landscaping to be completed next spring. Congratulations to the community of McGrath and its partners for persevering in the face of adversity! We hope the new center fulfills your dream of a one-stop community hub, housing tribal offices, social services, learning programs, and spaces for community gatherings and cultural exchange.

The new McGrath community center as it stands now. Visible on the roof of the main section is a grid mounting system for the solar panels that will be installed as part of the energy efficient design for the new building. The new facility will open in December, with landscaping to be finished in Spring 2012. Photo credit: Interior Regional Housing Authority.

Melinda Brunner and Sonja Benson
Brownfield Program Specialists

Local and National Help Available to Establish Community Gardens

With temperatures turning colder and the days getting shorter, my thoughts turn to fall harvesting. Does that mean moose hunting to you? How about lowbush cranberry picking? For me, it also means collecting the last of my garden’s bounty, and getting the beds ready for their first blanket of snow. Alaskan communities could be doing their own harvesting from gardens built on reclaimed brownfields. Our last bulletin discussed the national trend toward redeveloping brownfield sites into thriving community gardens. Community gardens are a relatively low-cost reuse option for Alaskan brownfields that could lead to improved local health through better nutrition, and increased self-reliance with less food having to be purchased and shipped in from Outside. If you are considering reuse options for a brownfield, there are many resources available to help you fund, plan, and actually grow a community garden.

Once you’ve identified your brownfield and adequately cleaned it up, it’s on to arguably the most exciting part of the process – the revitalization of the site. That old tank farm pad could become rows of potatoes, lettuce, and turnips, or provide a foundation for a greenhouse, cold frames, or raised beds. Sometimes the desired reuse of a site is partially driven by what it will cost for the new development. If you’re interested in having a community garden, grants are available to help offset the cost. Grants could cover everything from tillers to seeds to Home Depot gift cards for raised bed supplies. A quick search of the Internet will turn up many listings, such as the information offered at On a larger scale, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently accepting proposals for its Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program. The program offers grants worth up to $300,000. A dollar-for-dollar match in resources is required from the applicant. The application deadline for this grant is 5:00 p.m. (Eastern time) on November 17, 2011. More information is available on-line at

On the local front, the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service (CES) offers a wide variety of information and assistance on agriculture and horticulture to the communities throughout Alaska. You can find the office nearest you by visiting their website ( or calling (907) 474-5211. Heidi Rader of the CES has developed a presentation entitled, “So You Want to Start a Community Garden in Alaska?” that will walk you through assessing whether there’s enough community interest for a garden, determining the basic materials needed, and even estimating the potential yield (50 pounds of food from a 10’x10’ plot!). If you are unsure of how to garden, the CES offers The Alaska Growers School to bring you up to speed. The school is designed to give students the knowledge and skills necessary to grow enough food for themselves and ten other families, including information on raising bees and livestock. The program is available to all, though preference is given to attendees from the Tanana Chiefs Conference region.

Another excellent source of information on food systems in Alaska is the Alaska Food Policy Council. The council’s website ( offers up announcements on available classes and grants, articles on developments in Alaskan agriculture, as well as contact information for food producers and others interested in improving the state’s food system.

Alaskan communities could turn their cleaned-up brownfields into gardens producing food for summer eating, and fall/winter/spring storage and consumption. Imagine the satisfaction of eating green beans that were harvested and canned locally during the dark, cold days of February! Many local and national resources are available to help build community gardens, so if you are looking for a brownfield reuse idea, this is one tasty, affordable path to pursue.

Melinda Brunner
Brownfield Program Specialist

Alaska Brownfield Task Force – Planning for the Future

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Reuse and Redevelopment Program, and the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, Divisions of Economic Development and Finance, are evaluating the establishment of a statewide Alaska Brownfield Study Group or Task Force, to promote brownfield revitalization by supporting state assistance, incentives, and technical support for this work. This group is currently laying the groundwork for a renewed application for an Alaska Brownfield Revolving Loan Fund, starting with the development of a survey to support a needs assessment. Be watching for this survey and we look forward to your responses as we explore the ways the State of Alaska can help promote brownfield revitalization projects in Alaska.

Sonja Benson
Brownfield Program Specialist

Meet Our New DEC Brownfield Staff

Melinda Brunner joined the DEC Reuse & Redevelopment/Brownfield Program in July 2011. Melinda started working for DEC in 2005 in the Prevention Preparedness and Response Program inspecting fuel storage tank farms and evaluating their oil discharge prevention and contingency plans. She traveled all over the state, from Barrow to Ketchikan, and Shemya Island to Nenana, visiting many spots in between. As a tank farm inspector, Melinda’s job was to ensure facilities were preventing spills, and that they had response equipment on-site to use in the event of a discharge.

Melinda Brunner appreciating the
local humor on Shemya Island, Alaska.
Melinda is looking forward to helping communities access the means to assess, cleanup, and reuse their contaminated sites. She has seen many sites that need attention while traveling across Alaska. Melinda also hopes to work with communities to prevent contaminated sites, specifically by spreading the word that tank farms may avoid becoming contaminated by following transfer procedures, keeping tank inspections current, and cleaning up even the small spills as soon as they happen.

Melinda grew up in Sterling, Alaska, and has lived in Fairbanks since 1995. She enjoys fishing, berry picking, curling, and commuting to work on her motorcycle during the non-winter months.

Melinda Brunner
Brownfield Program Specialist


• Zender Environmental Health and Research Group Awarded Environmental Workforce
  Development and Job Training Grant

In July we learned that Anchorage-based Zender Environmental Health and Research Group (Zender) of Anchorage was awarded a two-year cooperative agreement from EPA to provide environmental training to residents of rural Alaska. Zender will use this grant to hold job and certification training for students in up to 40 of Alaska’s most remote and rural villages. For more information on brownfields job training grants, visit

• Five New Tribal Response Programs in Alaska

Five new Tribal Response Program (TRP) grants have been awarded in Alaska. The new programs officially began October 1, 2011. DEC extends a warm welcome to the new TRPs from Craig Community Association, Copper River Native Association, Douglas Indian Association, Hydaburg Cooperative Association, and the Orutsararmiut Native Council. We look forward to meeting these new grantees and working together to identify, cleanup, and reuse contaminated sites in their communities.

• Alaska Brownfields Team Recognized

DEC and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Region 10 office work hand in hand to help Alaskans revitalize brownfields in their communities. DEC’s John Carnahan, Sonja Benson, and former staff member Deborah Williams, along with EPA’s Mary Goolie, Susan Morales, Joanne LaBaw, and Deborah Burgess were awarded a 2011 National Notable Achievement Award by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER) Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus honoring the team’s exemplary performance.

The award acknowledges the team’s dedication to rural Alaska residents in providing technical and other assistance in cleanup of brownfield sites. The National Notable Achievement Awards are given out annually in recognition of outstanding performance in support of OSWER and EPA’s most significant priorities. “Rural Alaska is a challenging place for brownfields work, but this work is important to individual communities seeking to redevelop or use these areas,” said DEC Commissioner Larry Hartig.

Brownfield Calendar

• Alaska State Planning Conference and Alaska Municipal League: Fairbanks

The Alaska Chapter of the American Planning Association is hosting a conference in Fairbanks this year. Conference topics include tribal planning, economic development, public involvement and wetlands use. The Planning Conference is being held in conjunction with the Alaska Municipal League’s Annual Local Government Conference. Visit and for more information.

When: November 6-8, 2011 (Planning Conference); November 7-11, 2011 (AML)
Where: Westmark Hotel, Fairbanks

• Alaska Tribal Conference on Environmental Management (ATCEM): Anchorage

We hope to see you at the 17th annual ATCEM gathering. This meeting will provide opportunities to learn about waste management, brownfields redevelopment, and pollution prevention and response. Come gain useful knowledge, and meet other professionals from all over the state. Visit for more information.

When: November 7-9, 2011
Where: Hilton Hotel, Anchorage

• Guidelines Posted for Brownfields Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup Grants

The proposal guidelines for the EPA Brownfield Assessment, RLF, and Cleanup Grants have been posted to EPA’s website. The deadline for proposals is November 28, 2011. For more information and to download the guidelines visit

• Application Materials Available for Community Development Block Grants

The Alaska Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program is administered by the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. The goals of the CDBG Program are to provide financial resources to Alaskan communities for public facilities and planning activities to improve the health and safety of local residents and to reduce the costs of essential community services. Any Alaskan municipal government (except Anchorage) is eligible to apply for a CDBG. Applications are due to the Fairbanks DCCED office on December 2, 2011.

• Alaska Forum on the Environment: Anchorage

Mark your calendar for this exciting annual environmental conference! Visit for more information.

When: February 6-10, 2012
Where: Dena’ina Convention Center, Anchorage

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