Brownfield Newsletter

Revitalizing Communities through the Recycling of Contaminated Properties

Vol. 12-2 ~ Spring 2012


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) 451-2156
Facsimile: (907) 451-2155


DEC Brownfield Webpage
Contaminated Sites Webpage


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Previous Issues of DEC's Brownfield Bulletin


Welcome to the Spring 2012 edition of the DEC Brownfield Bulletin!

Now that breakup is in full swing and the snow is receding from all manner of things we forgot about over the winter, it’s time to think of cleaning up and getting ready for summer gardens, new construction projects, hunting, fishing and gathering, and simply enjoying the beautiful Alaskan outdoors. For some projects, getting to the actual creative work can feel quite daunting, especially when the location is complicated by real or perceived environmental problems beyond trash pickup. Brownfield inventories and assessments are important in that they can clarify what needs to be done before the ultimate vision for a site can be achieved. Please be sure to share with us your brownfield questions, interests, and especially your brownfield success stories.

February found us once again at the Alaska Forum on the Environment, a week-long meeting encompassing sessions on a wide range of topics, from climate change to mercury, from mining to environmental justice, and how all these topics intersect each other in a multi-disciplinary world.

Later in February John Carnahan participated in the Bering Strait/Norton Sound Environmental Conference in Nome. The conference drew a large attendance from the Seward Peninsula and Norton Sound communities. Environmental programs in this area are working diligently to improve conditions in their communities through better solid waste management, backhaul, and pollution prevention.

In our last issue we introduced you to the new Tribal Response Programs (TRP) now active in Alaska. In this issue we highlight some of the work being done by the Native Village of Eyak’s TRP to help improve spill response capabilities.

We have run stories on some of EPA’s past Targeted Brownfield Assessment (TBA) projects in Alaska. A current TBA project to develop an inventory of former dry cleaners in Fairbanks and Anchorage has identified more than a hundred former dry cleaning businesses. This issue describes the project and explains why the identification of historical dry cleaning operations is important to brownfield redevelopment.

Cleanup planning is underway for the community of Hughes. Read about the recent public meeting and the public comment period currently open for the cleanup options being proposed.

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:

There’s No Place Like Nome...for an Environmental Conference

The conference was held in the traditional Iditarod Race Headquarters that was soon to be filled with sled-dog racing competitors and enthusiasts from across the country.

Competing with the Iron Dog snow machine race is a daunting prospect for an environmental conference, but the Norton Sound Health Corporation pulled it off in Nome this past February, drawing an audience of more than 80 individuals for the first Bering Strait-Norton Sound Environmental Conference. Our Reuse & Redevelopment (R&R) Program was pleased to be on the agenda, which included a diverse array of presentations covering such topics as climate change in Alaska, solid waste management, watershed protection, offshore development, and the subsistence lifestyle, among others. Hands-on demonstrations and field trips were also part of the three-day event.

We took the opportunity to focus on what our R&R Program is advocating, and highlighted the potential opportunity for Seward Peninsula regional representation through a Tribal Response Program (TRP). EPA uses its brownfield funding to support TRP development by Alaska tribes and tribal consortia, and it was very apparent that the Norton Sound area has many motivated programs focusing on environmental awareness, data collection, and scientific analysis to better their understanding of the environmental impacts and changes they are seeing. Our thinking is that a corresponding TRP may be well suited to help establish a coordinated platform for managing data across several villages, programs, and organizations. It could benefit the large number of interested communities currently working on watershed protection and enhancing their understanding of environmental conditions as they relate to pending development in their region.

I was fortunate enough to be able to have dinner with IGAP (Indian General Assistance Program) coordinators from several villages, including Koyuk, Golovin, White Mountain, and Elim.
Joe Sarcone, of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, speaks on Conceptual Site Models during a session at the Environmental Conference in Nome, Alaska.
I found it humorous that we found ourselves at a “multi-cultural” sushi and pizza joint for an enjoyable evening discussing the TRP process. Other time was spent meeting some new folks and old friends at the local Airport Pizza, where the occasional Iron Dog participant would saunter in for a coffee after a long stretch of riding.

The conference attracted representatives from every community in the Bering Strait and Norton Sound region. This was the first of what is hoped will be an annual event where communities will have a forum for the various organizations and programs to compare their findings on environmental issues affecting the area. We look forward to next year and hope that many of the exciting programs currently operating are soon to be complemented by a new Norton Sound/Bering Strait TRP.

John Carnahan
Brownfield Coordinator

Bering Strait/Norton Sound Regional Environmental Conference

Tribal Response Program Spotlight:
The Native Village of Eyak Trains Spill Responders

Since its establishment in 2010, the Native Village of Eyak’s (NVE) Tribal Response Program (TRP) has been busy creating a brownfield inventory and public record, conducting site visits, and doing community outreach to educate people in the Cordova area about the need to identify and reuse brownfields. In 2011, NVE’s TRP also focused on building tribal capacity for responding to oil spills. When a community has trained responders ready to clean up an oil spill it can help prevent the creation of new brownfields; a swift and educated spill response can limit the area of land affected by a spill and clean up the contamination completely soon after it occurs.

In October 2011, the NVE TRP hosted four days of hazardous waste operations and emergency response (HAZWOPER) training in Cordova. Participants learned about recognizing hazardous materials, the incident command system, oil spill response tactics, and decontamination techniques. It wasn’t all reading, writing, and listening to lectures, though. Attendees also had the opportunity to don personal protective equipment and work with response equipment such as containment boom. In the end, 32 people took part in the HAZWOPER training.

NVE Brownfield/CARE Coordinator, Ivy Patton, said, “Thanks to the coordination of multiple organizations including the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the training was a huge success. We now have trained, certified community members who are trained to respond in the case of a spill or emergency. Often, small communities have to wait for people to arrive from a bigger regional hub city to respond, which can delay any efforts. I’m happy to have been part of this community training to help prevent future brownfield sites and to keep our natural resources safe.”

Participants of the HAZWOPER training hosted by NVE in 2011.

The NVE TRP plans to continue its efforts to prevent brownfields by making guidelines for the operation of home heating oil tanks available to the community. By properly maintaining and operating oil tanks, even small residential ones, the risk of spills can be decreased. DEC will be in Cordova on May 1, 2012, to present a home heating oil tank safety presentation. NVE worked with Cordova’s local fuel distributor, Shoreside Petroleum, to put inserts in the fuel bills to advertise this event. In addition, Shoreside Petroleum has donated 50 gallons of home heating fuel as a door prize to encourage participation.

If you have questions about the NVE TRP or the work they’re doing, feel free to call Ivy Patton at (907) 424-7738, or email Ivy at

Ivy Patton
Native Village of Eyak Brownfield/CARE Coordinator

Melinda Brunner
Brownfield Program Specialist


Identifying Former Dry Cleaners in Alaska Using a Targeted Brownfield Assessment

Businesses come and go for a variety of reasons: they move to a different spot, they’re replaced by a competitor, or they just vanish. Unfortunately, though, some businesses leave behind a legacy of contamination. The identity of those polluters can be masked by time. DEC has observed that dry cleaning businesses may be the sources of historical contaminant releases in Alaskan urban centers, and turned to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Targeted Brownfields Assessment (TBA) program for help in finding those businesses. A TBA is a service provided by EPA that can range from inventories of contaminated sites, to field sampling and site characterization, to preparing a list of cleanup options for a site with the estimated costs. TBAs are available to public, quasi-public, and non-profit entities. Information about the TBA program, including an application, can be found at

In early 2011, DEC was awarded a TBA designed to help establish an inventory of historical dry cleaners within the Fairbanks and Anchorage areas. Solvents used in the dry cleaning process have sometimes been spilled or released to the environment, causing widespread soil and groundwater contamination. In fact, chlorinated-solvent contamination in soil and groundwater is often associated with former dry cleaning operations. Sometimes the source of chlorinated-solvent contamination in groundwater is unknown, and an undefined, yet large, plume of contamination can extend for blocks and even miles. These large plumes of contamination can directly affect the potential economic development for the community in and around the source areas, because the state may hold the owner of property situated over groundwater contamination liable for cleanup. Properties over plumes are sometimes not sold because of the prospective buyer’s fear of taking on potential environmental liability. This dynamic creates brownfields, contaminated or perceived-to-be contaminated properties with redevelopment potential held prisoner by liability concerns.

Using the dry cleaner inventory developed under the TBA program, DEC may be able to locate the parties responsible for creating these solvent plumes, and use other funding to identify the extent of the contamination. With the source areas and extent of contamination identified, the state
will be better positioned to approve “Prospective Purchaser Agreements” (PPAs) as part of the property transactions for sites over these contaminated groundwater plumes.

A PPA can help clarify the financial liability a purchasing party may acquire when buying property. Holding new property owners responsible for pre-existing contamination, or that known to come from an offsite source, can preclude development interests and lead to blight; without the history and environmental data needed to establish a PPA, the state can offer little relief.

The TBA efforts to date include researching dry cleaner locations through searches of business licenses, tax records, and Polk Directories (business directories). The TBA has pinpointed 29 newly identified drycleaners, laundromats, or laundry drop-off centers in Fairbanks, and 120 newly identified sites in the Anchorage area. DEC intends to take this information, couple it with an analysis of potential exposure and local development interests, and develop a prioritization scheme for future site investigations. DEC would like to thank EPA for their assistance in awarding the TBA for this important work. Joanne LaBaw, TBA coordinator for EPA Region 10, which includes Alaska, said, “This has been an interesting project and EPA has been happy to help.”


Melinda Brunner
Environmental Program Specialist

Hughes Community Engages in Public Meeting about Cleanup Project

The Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council (YRITWC) and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) are partnering on a contaminated soil cleanup project proposed for the community of Hughes. The cleanup will be focused on areas contaminated by petroleum hydrocarbons as a result of two historical flooding events. Characterization work done in 2008 and 2009 confirmed that soil contamination above DEC cleanup levels exists at several locations: an abandoned generator building next to the washeteria, the location of a former fuel dispenser island, the footprint of a former generator building, the former school tank farm, and along the pipeline that connects the generator building to the former school tank farm. The community of Hughes has expressed an interest in cleaning up these brownfield areas, and redeveloping them as an elder and youth center and a softball field.

On April 3, 2012, representatives from YRITWC, DEC, and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium attended a public meeting in Hughes to discuss the recently released “Analysis of Brownfield Cleanup Alternatives” (ABCA) that explores the different cleanup strategies available and recommends the best approach for the sites. The public meeting had a great turnout, and people raised questions about the extent of the cleanup, the possibility of local hire for the project, and the final destination of excavated contaminated soil. The ABCA and supporting documents are available for public review at DEC's Fairbanks office (610 University Avenue), YRITWC's Office (323 2nd Street, Unit A, Fairbanks), the Hughes Tribal Office (110 Backtrail Road), and online at  YRITWC is
accepting comments on the ABCA until May 3, 2012, at 5:00 p.m. Comments can be mailed to the YRITWC Office, faxed to YRITWC at (907) 451-2534 (attn: Caleb Aronson), or emailed to

Once the ABCA comment period is over, the document will be finalized and used to develop a corrective action plan for the sites. YRITWC plans to move forward with cleanup of the Hughes sites, as funding allows, during the summer 2012 field season. The continued involvement of the community is vital to the success of this cleanup project, in terms of local knowledge, skills, and materials. Maybe next year Hughes will be ready for a public meeting on their new softball field! 

Melinda Brunner
Environmental Program Specialist

Brownfield Calendar

Grant Training Workshops
Grant Writing USA will be presenting two Grant Writing Workshops in partnership with Alaska Division of Fire and Life Safety in Anchorage and Fairbanks in June.
For more information on the Anchorage class, visit:
          When: June 11-12, 2012
          Where: 1140 Airport Heights Drive, Anchorage, Alaska
For more information on the Fairbanks class, visit:
          When: June 14-15, 2012
          Where: 1710 30th Avenue, Fairbanks, Alaska
These workshops will cover how to write grant proposals from start to finish and how to locate and track relevant grant opportunities. This training is appropriate for city, county, and state offices as well as area educators and non-profits.

The Northwest Brownfields Conference
Visit more information.
When: June 21-22, 2012
          Where: Davenport Hotel, Spokane, Washington
This conference is a great opportunity to network with public and private sector proponents of brownfield redevelopment in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

2012 Tribal Lands Forum
Visit for more information.
          When: August 20-23, 2012
          Where: Mill Casino and Hotel, Coos Bay, Oregon
The Forum is an annual national gathering of tribal professionals and their colleagues from various federal agencies. Topics covered will be waste management, brownfields, Superfund sites, underground storage tanks, land remediation, and emergency response.

Brownfields 2013 Conference
          When: May 15-17, 2013
          Where: Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta, Georgia
Save the date!  This event isn’t until next year, but promises to pack a figurative punch. This is the largest and most comprehensive event in the U.S. that focuses on the assessment, cleanup and revitalization of brownfields. For more information, visit


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