Vol. 12-3 ~ Summer 2012
John B. Carnahan
Sonja L. Benson
Melinda S. Brunner
Contaminated Sites Program
Other sites of Interest
Previous Issues of DEC's Brownfield Bulletin
Welcome to the Summer 2012 edition of the DEC Brownfield Bulletin!
Summer may be half over, with the fall equinox only six weeks away, but the field work on environmental assessment and cleanup projects around the state are in full swing. We hope your projects are seeing success.
This has been another busy summer for DEC’s Reuse and Redevelopment Program. We received seven requests for DEC Brownfield Assessments or Cleanups; the Buckland project, subject of the first story in this newsletter, ranked at the top. We anticipate only being able to work on the top two or three of the requested projects because of ongoing work at two of last year’s projects: a cleanup in the village of Kwethluk and stockpile sampling in Kobuk.
In June we had the pleasure of traveling to Bethel to meet with representatives from three Tribal Response Programs (TRPs) and EPA. It was an excellent chance to collaborate with others in the brownfield world, and we are always looking for these opportunities. Please keep us in mind when looking for partners in your environmental programs.
In one of our previous newsletters we described the solid waste resources available from DEC. In this one we highlight the services and resources provided by DEC’s Drinking Water Program in its regulation of Alaskan public drinking water systems.
Planning is already underway for the Brownfield track at the Alaska Tribal Conference on Environmental Management (ATCEM), coming up in November. Many of you may be planning to attend ATCEM already, but if you haven’t yet considered this conference, we encourage you to watch for their invitation to register.
We hope you enjoy this edition of our newsletter and, as always, keep in touch.
In this issue:
Brownfield Assessment Meets Buckland Timeframe
Each year the Reuse and Redevelopment (R&R) Program puts forth a solicitation for brownfield assessments or cleanups in Alaska. The R&R Program developed the DEC Brownfield Assessment and Cleanup program in 2004, and to date has had more than 115 requests for assistance. This year we received only seven requests for assessments, one of which was for services in the small community of Buckland. We were surprised that for such a small community there was indeed a lot of construction activity underway.
We were first informed by the EPA Region 10 brownfield coordinator that the Cold Climate Housing and Research Center (CCHRC), located in Fairbanks, was seeking assistance to clarify environmental concerns at a property that was part of their new energy-efficient pilot housing project. Housing is in seriously short supply in Buckland, and the success of the new pilot project was very important to the community’s development objectives. The project was a multi-agency endeavor involving the CCHRC, the Native Village of Buckland, the City of Buckland, the University of Alaska Fairbanks-Chukchi Campus, the Northwest Inupiat Housing Authority, and funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
New development often involves activities that are on or near known contaminated sites. This can be problematic when the concerns on one property directly affect the potential use of adjacent property. The perception or stigma that may surround a property can be devastating to development planning, and often at the most inopportune times. In this instance, a former community fuel depot was located close to the selected housing project site, which itself was an untouched piece of land. The nearly abandoned fuel facility had historical spills and one significant release that resulted in the site being listed on the DEC database of contaminated sites. Although cleanup after the spill had occurred, it was later established that residual contamination existed in the vicinity of the old spill.
The history of the former fuel depot site led to concerns that development of the new pilot project site could be at risk because of contamination that may have migrated overland or traveled underground with groundwater. Part of the federal funding requirements for this, and many similar projects, is an environmental clearance on the property for which the federal funding is targeted. CCHRC’s concern deepened when it became apparent that an environmental assessment would be necessary in order to free up the $500,000 in HUD funding to move the project forward.
While this would not typically appear to be a significant problem, the timing of the requirement was such that a very brief window of time existed to hire a contractor, review available information, visit the site, and document the findings. Construction schedules in rural Alaska are often controlled by the barge deliveries, and CCHRC had until the end of July to get the clearance they sought before the project timeline would be derailed.
CCHRCís situation was first brought to the attention of DEC on May 17, which coincided with the R&R Programís request period for DEC Brownfield Assessments and Cleanups. CCHRC put together a request for DEC assistance by the June 15 deadline, and after an expedited approval process, a DEC term contractor was retained by the R&R Program on July 11 to perform the needed environmental assessment. Their findings were positive for the project in that they determined that the conditions on the adjacent property, including the former fuel depot, were unlikely to have affected the pending CCHRC site in a way that would preclude site use as intended. The entire project was completed in fifteen days when a property assessment report and letter from DEC were submitted to CCHRC on July 26. Following delivery of the findings to HUD on that same day, HUD issued an environmental clearance, making the $500,000 in project funding available.
To be clear, neither the contracting process nor the environmental assessment process generally flows this rapidly or smoothly. We were fortunate that all the necessary elements came together at the right time to make this project a success. We wish CCHRC and the community of Buckland the best of luck for a successful pilot housing project and look forward to the development of more energy-efficient homes in our rural Alaska villages.
Collaborative Meeting in Bethel Strengthens State and Tribal Response Program Partnerships
For three days in June, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC’s) Reuse & Redevelopment Program staff accompanied EPA’s Alaska brownfield project manager, Mary Goolie, to Bethel, Alaska, to meet with the Section 128(a)-funded Brownfield Tribal Response Programs managed by the Kuskokwim River Watershed Council (KRWC), the Orutsararmiut Native Council (ONC), and the Native Village of Tununak-Nelson Island Consortium (NIC). KRWC and ONC are based in Bethel; the NIC program coordinator flew in from nearby Tununak, on Nelson Island, to attend. The three programs have some overlap in the communities they serve and are working to strengthen their partnership to more effectively develop their programs in the region.
KRWC serves 30 Alaska Native villages in the Kuskokwim River watershed, including the seven NIC communities. ONC is in its first year of 128(a) funding and mainly covers Bethel, which is a “hub” community for the region’s smaller villages; because of its central location in the region ONC will be available to help the other programs as the need arises. The communities served by the three programs have many types of environmental concerns in common, including old fuel storage tank farms, abandoned school sites, and open dumps, all complicated by the increased rates of coastal and riverbank erosion attributed to changes in the region’s climate. The group toured several potential brownfield sites in Bethel during the first and third afternoons, and spent most of the second day presenting information on their programs and discussing possible resources for brownfield revitalization and approaches for collaborating on rural community outreach.
Since the meeting Vernon has been in the process of picking up where the former coordinator left off, reviewing potential brownfield sites and grant deliverables, and updating information on ONC’s website. He is looking forward to building partnerships with John Oscar (KRWC executive director), Martin Leonard and Lucille Kalistook with KRWC, Teddy Angaiak with NIC, and with DEC and EPA, working together to strengthen relationships within the Alaska STRP brownfield network. Vernon will soon head out to “Steamboat Slough” and the former Bethel Airport site across the river from town, to take pictures for the ONC website’s public record, and will be visiting other sites, including a former laundromat, to add to ONC’s inventory. Vernon plans on attending the Solid Waste, Emergency Response, Contaminated Sites and Underground Storage Tank training at the Tribal Lands Forum in Coos Bay, Oregon, August 20-23, 2012, so please say hello if you see him there.
We’re happy to welcome Vernon and the Martin to the Alaska Brownfield Bunch!
Beyond Brownfields: Finding Answers to Your Drinking Water Questions
Is your drinking water contaminated? Is the brownfield property that you are interested in developing served by a public water system or a private well? Is your drinking water source appropriately protected from contamination sources such as dumps and contaminated sites? DEC’s Drinking Water Program can provide answers to these types of questions.
Consuming water containing contaminants above the established Maximum Contaminant Levels set by the regulations over a period of time could cause chronic (long term) or acute (short term) health problems.
2012 Tribal Lands Forum
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