Brownfield Newsletter

Revitalizing Communities through the Recycling of Contaminated Properties

Vol. 09-1~Summer 2009


John B. Carnahan
Brownfield Coordinator

Sonja L. Benson
Brownfield Program Specialist

Deborah L. Williams
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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Previous Issues of DEC's Brownfield Bulletin


Welcome to the Summer Solstice 2009 edition of the DEC Brownfield Bulletin!

I can't believe it's been almost a year since our last Brownfield Bulletin! As our project workload has increased we have found it also increasingly challenging to maintain our communications the way we would like to. We hope you will stay in touch with us. Last summer we had over a dozen projects going all over the state. In October we shared the stage with the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council at the Alaska Tribal Conference on Environmental Management, the largest annual tribal environmental meeting in Alaska. In December we hosted our tribal counterparts in brownfield revitalization at a meeting here in Fairbanks of the State and Tribal Response Programs; the turnout was great, see the story below. Also in December we welcomed a new addition to our DEC brownfield team, Deb Williams; we are so happy to have her! In February we participated in three brownfield presentations at the Alaska Forum on the Environment, including a panel discussion session featuring panelists from five of the Tribal Response Programs. In April we presented a brownfield workshop in Kotzebue at the invitation of Maniilaq Association. Our spring DEC Brownfield Assessment (DBA) request period yielded 29 new requests, and we are now preparing the scopes of work for the DBAs we will be able to initiate this year. We look forward to another season of building our Alaska brownfield inventory, conducting assessments and cleanups at brownfield sites, and working with you to improve the environmental conditions in your communities through brownfield revitalization.

Sonja Benson
Brownfield Program Specialist

In this issue:

Brownfield Workshops Bring People Together to Share Knowledge, Solve Common Problems
Alaska State and Tribal Brownfield Workshop: Fairbanks
Maniilaq Association, Introduction to Brownfields: Kotzebue

Parts of this story appeared in the May issue of Building on Brownfields, the EPA Region 10 brownfield newsletter. Click here to subscribe to it.  

Last December, as the temperature hovered around 0° Fahrenheit, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC’s) Reuse and Redevelopment Program (R&R) hosted the first All-Alaska State and Tribal Brownfield Workshop in Fairbanks.

The workshop brought together grant recipients of EPA’s State and Tribal Response Program (STRP). At least one representative from each of the ten Alaska Tribal Response Programs attended the workshop. (DEC has been an STRP grant recipient for five years.) Brownfield representatives from EPA’s Region 10, other DEC staff from the Preparedness Prevention and Response and Solid Waste programs, and representatives from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) also attended.

The intent of the workshop was to acquaint the five new and five established Brownfield Tribal Response Program grantees with each other, with state R&R staff, and with representatives of other organizations serving as resources for programs developing their environmental response capacity.

R&R staff also hoped to gain a better understanding of the challenges faced by the environmental programs in the state's rural areas, and to identify ways to improve the state program. Workshop topics included environmental site assessments and contaminated site management, brownfield grant opportunities, building a brownfield inventory, geographic information systems and mapping, developing and maintaining databases, and grant reporting and management. The response from attendees was overwhelmingly positive and will help guide R&R in planning future workshops and statewide tribal response program teleconferences.

Sonta Hamilton, former brownfields program manager for the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council, notes the benefits for cross-program sharing of information and experiences: “For the first time, Alaska brownfield grantees and interested organizations gathered together to discuss common issues and raise awareness. And it was a success!" Hamilton says. “Our issues are unique in Alaska, and to come together and support one another is key to moving forward.”

“I was looking for answers and I found them at this workshop,” agrees Arla Johnson, Bristol Bay Native Association brownfield coordinator. “All the workshop participants helped to give me a good knowledge base for what I could do to build capacity for my region’s villages.”

Alex James, of the Yakutat Tlingit Tribe, was reluctant to travel to Fairbanks in the winter, but found the event very beneficial. “It's true, I didn't want to go to Fairbanks in December!" says James. "But I was surprised by the close working relationship that DEC provides to the rural communities. I’ve used DEC as a resource several times since the meeting and have appreciated the quick response from the Alaska R&R program, and not the least is knowing who I’m talking to.”

“I went away feeling confident about being able to implement the grant that Maniilaq Association received,” says Millie Hawley, environmental program manager for Maniilaq Association, after attending the Fairbanks workshop. “This program will greatly benefit the tribes in the Maniilaq service area as we begin to survey and assess possible contaminated sites.”

In fact, as a result of the December STRP workshop in Fairbanks, Maniilaq Association, based in the Northwest Arctic Borough, invited DEC to put on a workshop in Kotzebue in April. Maniilaq brought in the IGAP* environmental professionals from each of the 11 villages it serves. The two-day Maniilaq workshop introduced participants to the contaminated sites cleanup process and types of contaminants that might be expected at different types of sites, as well as the resources available to them through different federal and state environmental agencies. They also learned about the brownfield inventory work that will be continued this summer as Hawley and Maniilaq brownfield coordinator, Stanley Tomaszewski, travel to the villages to survey potential brownfields.

Participants in the Introduction to Brownfields Workshop, hosted by Maniilaq Association and presented by DEC's Reuse and Redevelopment Program. (Photo courtesy Maniilaq Association.)

The workshop participants were enthusiastic to learn about approaches to recycling contaminated land for the benefit of their communities. They particularly enjoyed the mapping exercise in which they used community maps to identify key resources and facilities, and potentially contaminated areas that could be put back into productive use.

Wed like to thank Millie Hawley, Jackie Hill, and Maniilaq Association for their gracious hospitality and a great workshop.

John Carnahan, DEC brownfield coordinator, looks forward to the continued mutual support among tribal response programs from wide-ranging areas of the state: “We're confident the new relationships forged during these workshops will help us continue to build a strong foundation for improving environmental conditions throughout Alaska.”

Current State and Tribal Response Program Grantees in Alaska:

*IGAP=Indian Environmental General Assistance Program

For more information on the State and Tribal Response Program, click

Sonja Benson
Brownfield Program Specialist
John Carnahan
DEC Brownfield Coordinator

DEC Receives Record Number of DBA Requests in 2009

Each year DEC's Reuse and Redevelopment (R&R or Brownfield) Program solicits requests for DEC Brownfield Assessments (DBAs). The DBAs, which are patterned after EPA’s Targeted Brownfield Assessments, are funded in part through DEC's State and Tribal Response Program grant (see article, above), as well as through state Capital Improvement Project (CIP) money. Since 2004, DEC has conducted more than 45 DBAs in 30 cities and villages throughout the state.

This year we received 29 DBA requests, including 11 for state-owned or state-interest properties and 18 for non-state sites. State DBA requests may come in from other agency officials or from a community in which the state-owned site resides. Of the state DBA requests, four were for assessments of old school properties. Three of the non-state proposed projects were determined to be ineligible for brownfield assistance because of various factors: one site is an active tank farm and another was unfortunately lost to erosion before the assessment request could be completed.

Hughes School and Community Tank Farm, the subject of a current DBA, which will result in an environmental management plan for the site. (Photo courtesy Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council)

As in previous years, many requests came in from small villages seeking environmental evaluation of old fuel-storage tank farms, burned or abandoned schools, old power houses or generator buildings, and old dumpsites. State agency requests also included old school sites, along with old highway maintenance sites and airports, and for the first time this year, two defunct shooting ranges. All DBAs at state-owned sites are done with state CIP funds allocated specifically for state-property assessments and cleanups.

The intent of a DBA is to further the redevelopment or reuse of a property or structure, or to protect and preserve resources that may be adversely affected by the subject brownfield. This is a critical component of a successful DBA request. The stronger the reuse plan, the higher the ranking within our review and prioritization process. Oftentimes the properties in question have been a concern to the community for many years, sometimes decades. When considering a request for brownfield assistance, start first by thinking of what you'd like to see in place of the problem site, then work back to what it would take to get there. See the story on our brownfield project in McGrath, below, for an example of a great brownfield project with all the right elements to make it a success.

DBA activities over the years have ranged from simple environmental audits or Phase I environmental site assessments to full site characterizations, and even some limited cleanups. We hope to get started on this year's DBA projects during the 2009 summer field season, with the actual scopes of work and final funding allocations yet to be determined. We are continually looking for new funding opportunities and hope to have more projects through the planning stages should more funding become available. We will announce the final list of funded projects through our list serve and on our website, in late July or early August, once state and federal approval has been obtained for the proposed work.

Sonja Benson
Brownfield Program Specialist

The McGrath Native Village Council Builds on Brownfield Partnerships for Successful Redevelopment

From the time we received the DEC Brownfield Assessment (DBA) request from the McGrath Native Village Council (MNVC) during our Spring 2008 DBA request period, we knew it looked like an excellent brownfield opportunity. Indeed, the request from MNVC ranked #1 in our DBA prioritization process. The McGrath Tribal Hall, which had been known as the Chamai Center, had burned down on Christmas Eve, 2006, and the MNVC hoped to reuse the site for a new facility.

The brownfield project in McGrath included removal of an underground fuel storage tank at the site of the burned Chamai Center. (Photo courtesy SLR International Corp.)

After the fire, the MNVC had to relocate their offices and pay rent for space in another part of the community. They wished to rebuild on the burned site, but needed to apply for funds from different sources in order to cover the high costs of construction in a rural Alaska community. The Tanana Chiefs Conference is helping MNVC apply for the necessary funding.

Before beginning the new construction, they wished to be assured that no environmental problems were present on the property. During the clearing of debris from the fire, the top of an underground fuel storage tank (UST) was exposed, and stained soil with a fuel odor was noted around the UST. The MNVC was concerned that the tank, which had been used to store heating oil for the Chamai Center, might have had a slow leak at some of the valve connections, and it was possible that some spills may have occurred during fueling operations. The MNVC had already begun the process of seeking funds for the new tribal hall, and had secured funding from the Interior Regional Housing Authority for developing plans for the new structure, so it was obvious they had a strong reuse interest in the site and the means to follow through on other aspects of the project.

The scope of the DBA in McGrath, which was completed last fall, included removal of the UST and a small volume of contaminated soil. Once the excavation was complete, it was evident that the extent of contamination was not as bad as it could have been. The community worked with DEC to find a location near the local landfill where the excavated soil can be landspread and used for daily landfill cover material.

The partnerships between MNVC, DEC, Tanana Chiefs Conference, and the Interior Regional Housing Authority have positioned this project for success. DEC is pleased to have played a part in this unfolding brownfield success story, and we look forward to soon seeing a new tribal hall functioning as a community hub on the site once again.

Sonja Benson
Brownfield Program Specialist

Update: Fairview Manor Redevelopment Project Underway in Fairbanks

The ground has been broken and the buildings are going up on this site of the 1950s-era Fairview Manor Apartments in Fairbanks. The new structures are a colorful and clean contrast to the old dilapidated buildings, many of which had broken windows boarded up to prevent vandalism by trespassers. The new development project is the culmination of years of planning and negotiations between Glenn Gellert of the Weeks Field Development Group, the City of Fairbanks, and the owners.

The new affordable housing units contrast with the old Fairview Manor apartments to the right. Two of the old buildings have been demolished to make way for the new structures; the rest of them will follow as people are able to relocate to the new housing units.

The Alaska DEC Reuse and Redevelopment (R&R or Brownfield) Program and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) played a behind-the-scenes, although important, role in facilitating the redevelopment of the old Fairview Manor site in Fairbanks. This site, in the heart of Fairbanks, was recognized as a Brownfield and investors and financiers were scared away from it until DEC’s R&R Program solicited the services of EPA’s Brownfield Program, on behalf of the City of Fairbanks, for a Targeted Brownfield Assessment (TBA).

The TBA consisted of an environmental drilling program to clarify perceived environmental conditions associated with the historical property use. DEC’s R&R Program also completed site characterization offsite around the property on what was once Fairbanks's first airfield, Weeks Field. DEC and EPA partnered in providing comprehensive environmental data necessary for both construction and funding decisions. The assessment work verified that contamination that could have hindered proposed development plans was not present, allowing the work to move forward. Says Gellert, "As an affordable housing developer, I am used to working through government entities for assistance and this process with ADEC and EPA was one of the smoothest I have experienced."

For more information on this project and background on Weeks Field, see our Fall 2007 newsletter article.

John Carnahan
DEC Brownfield Coordinator

Beyond Brownfields: Finding Answers to your Solid Waste and Wastewater Questions

Whenever we travel to Alaska’s smaller rural communities, we are frequently asked about wastewater problems, such as old sewage lagoons or honey bucket bunkers, and open or eroding dumpsites. These are pervasive problems in many villages in Alaska, but unfortunately most of the time they do not fall under the Brownfield Program. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC’s) Reuse and Redevelopment (Brownfield) Program is housed within DEC’s Contaminated Sites Program. The Contaminated Sites Program focuses on managing sites that have had a release of a petroleum product or hazardous substance.

Circle Landfill, before closure.

The R&R/Brownfield Program is just one among many other programs within DEC. Other DEC resources available to the public include the Solid Waste and Wastewater Programs. The Solid Waste Program provides resources and technical assistance regarding solid waste management, closing out old landfills, or permitting new landfills. The Wastewater Program provides resources and technical assistance regarding wastewater discharges from permitted or non-permitted wastewater facilities, as well as advice on honey bucket issues, old sewage lagoons, or disinfection procedures for sewage releases.

These DEC resources are available for the benefit of all the residents of Alaska. If you have a question about solid waste or wastewater management, and it isn’t something covered by the R&R/Brownfield Program, please feel free to contact someone in one of these other programs. See below for a listing of state, federal, and other resources for solid waste and wastewater questions.

DEC Contacts

DEC Solid Waste Program: (907) 269-7802 (Anchorage)
or contact Linda Demientieff, Rural Solid Waste Specialist, in Fairbanks (907) 451-2174

Wastewater questions (non-permitted facilities and general questions):
Bill Smyth (907) 451-2177

Wastewater questions (permitted facilities): Contact person listed in permit   

DEC is an agency of the State of Alaska. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a federal agency that also provides resources, including training for landfill operators, and technical assistance for solid waste questions. The Denali Commission is another, independent federal agency that is focused on inter-agency cooperation to support remote Alaska communities. The Denali Commission's solid waste program provides funding for various projects, such as burn boxes,

Circle Landfill, after closure.

equipment, fencing, waste oil burners, and improvements to solid waste facilities.

EPA Solid Waste Contact: Joe Sarcone, Rural Sanitation Coordinator (907) 271-1316

Denali Commission Solid Waste Program: Gene Kane, Program Manager (907) 271-3025

Other programs, such as the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) and Remote Maintenance Workers (RMW) Program, have designated engineers and RMWs assigned to each village. They are responsible for maintaining the wastewater facilities in the village and can get money to fix many of the problems that arise at these facilities. They also have money available to fix broken pumps or sewer lines and have emergency money to deal with these and other issues. The Alaska Rural Water Association (ARWA) provides training, education, and technical assistance to operators and individuals such as city managers who work with the water and wastewater systems in their communities.

ANTHC/RMW contact list:

ARWA: Jason Vangen, Wastewater Technical Assistance & Training Specialist (907) 357-1155

Other resources available to you if you have questions or concerns regarding health problems resulting from environmental contamination are the State Department of Health & Social Services, Division of Public Health-Epidemiology, and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).

Public Health Contacts

Public Health-Epidemiology: Lori Verbrugge (907) 269-8086

ATSDR: In Alaska (907) 271-4073


Deborah Williams
Brownfield Program Specialist

Sonja Benson
Brownfield Program Specialist

Welcome! Meet Our New DEC and EPA Alaska Brownfield Staff

Deborah Williams

Deborah Williams with her two children, Ben and Emma, at the Leaning Tower of Piza, during a recent family vacation to Greece and Italy.

Deborah Williams started working with the DEC Reuse & Redevelopment/Brownfield Program in December of 2008. Deborah first began working with DEC in November 1990 with the Spill Response Program where she was responsible for responding (emergency response) and overseeing the cleanup of petroleum and hazardous substance spills. After eight years in spill response, she spent 10 years working in the Contaminated Sites Program where she oversaw cleanup of historical contamination associated with state and private sites, as well as military sites.

Deborah has many years of experience working with Alaskan villages and communities. She is very excited about the R&R/Brownfield Program and the opportunities it provides to help communities with assessment and cleanup of the contaminated sites that are so prevalent in Alaskan villages. Deborah is married and has an 10-year-old daughter and an 8-year old son. Although she was not born in Alaska, she moved up to Fairbanks to attend graduate school 20 years ago and has never left. Her favorite pastimes are cross-country skiing; motorscootering; and travelling with her family.

Mary Goolie

Mary Goolie has been with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency since 1994 in the Alaska Operations Office in Anchorage. This past October, Mary joined the Assessment and Brownfields Unit in the Office of Environmental Cleanup as a brownfields project manager. She currently serves as a project officer for Tribal Response Program grants in Alaska and a Brownfields Cleanup grant in Washington.  For the ten years previous, Mary served as the Alaska planner in the Emergency Response Unit in the Office of Environmental Cleanup.  She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 1992 and still wears her UMD Bulldog sweatshirt to local UAA/UMD hockey games!

Sonja Benson
Brownfield Program Specialist

Brownfield Calendar

Community Involvement Training Conference (Seattle)

2009 CI Conference graphic

EPA's eleventh Community Involvement Training Conference will be held August 18-20, 2009, in Seattle, Washington. The theme for the 2009 conference is "Reaching across Boundaries: Sharing Challenges and Opportunities." This dynamic conference brings together more than 450 people from EPA and its federal, state, tribal, and local agency partners who plan and implement environmental community involvement, partnership, stewardship, outreach, and education programs.

The conference features plenary sessions with guest speakers, engaging and interactive information-sharing sessions, 3- and 4-hour training sessions, and full-day training sessions. It also will include field trips demonstrating the power of effective community involvement in the Seattle area, a poster session, exhibits, and a variety of networking opportunities and evening activities to add value and fun to the experience. During the conference we will explore communication skills and processes, organizational/institutional issues and behavioral shifts as ways to reach across boundaries to achieve these environmental benefits. Visit for more information.

When: August 18-20, 2009
Where: Seattle, Washington

Alaska Tribal Conference on Environmental Management: Anchorage

The 15th annual ATCEM meeting brings together tribal environmental staff from villages all over Alaska. This meeting provides a full educational program on waste management and pollution prevention along with fantastic networking opportunities. Unfortunately, this year ATCEM coincides with the national Brownfield Conference, Brownfields 2009 (see below), making for a tough choice for our tribal brownfield program managers and staff!

When: November 16-18, 2009
Where: Hilton Hotel, Anchorage

Brownfields 2009: New Orleans, Louisiana

Save the date for the biggest brownfield event in the country. This year's national brownfield meeting, Brownfields 2009, will be held in New Orleans, a symbol of rebirth and revitalization since its reemergence as a cultural mecca following Hurricane Katrina. Visit to register and learn more about this exciting brownfield event. More news will follow through our list serve and website once the agenda and educational program are made available.

Brownfields 2009

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This DEC Brownfield Bulletin is meant as a simple means to disseminate news across the state to those interested in brownfield developments. Please forward this to anyone you believe would be interested. If you have information or stories that you would like to submit, please send them to us and we will incorporate them on your behalf. If you would like to have your name removed from this distribution, simply email us and it will be done!