Brownfield Newsletter

Revitalizing Communities through the Recycling of Contaminated Properties

Vol. 12-1 ~ Winter 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 Winter 2012 edition of the DEC Brownfield Bulletin!

We are excited to have John Carnahan back at the helm of the Reuse and Redevelopment (R&R) Program after a semester of student-teaching fifth graders. John shares his experiences and insights on teaching, particularly as they apply to moving forward with our brownfield work.

In our last issue we highlighted the new McGrath community center; in this one we’ll take a look at the new Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center that was built on a former airport apron in Toksook Bay.

In October we noted that Zender Environmental Health and Research Group received an Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training Grant from EPA. Zender has also been working on a small grant from EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice. This is an emerging subject area that has a lot of support from EPA and many other national and local organizations. Alaska is starting to team up with the other states in EPA’s Region 10 to learn how other parts of the country are working to ensure that lower-income or minority populations are not disproportionately affected by environmental conditions in their communities.

Erik Norberg of our Juneau office is our new point of contact for the Southeast Alaska Tribal Response Programs (TRPs). This issue not only introduces Erik, but also provides information about the new TRPs in Southeast, Bethel, and Copper Center that started up last fall.

We saw many of you at the Alaska Tribal Conference on Environmental Management in Anchorage last November, and look forward to seeing you again at the Alaska Forum on the Environment next week.

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:

Brownfield Insights Inspired by Fifth Graders

After four months off, I can honestly say that it is good to be back in the swing of things here at DEC in the world of R&R! My leave from my position as the DEC brownfield coordinator was a necessary part of completing my continuing education requirements – several years back I began a lengthy journey through the University of Alaska Southeast’s distance education program to become a certified teacher. You can only “arm-chair” teach for so long before you need to actually get out and apply what you have learned – the result: my four-month sabbatical to student teach. There is nothing that will open your eyes more to the world of education and make you appreciate the vital role our teachers play than to actually participate in it each and every day.

I was very fortunate to work with an excellent fifth grade class at the Watershed School in Fairbanks, a school that focuses on the environment as a primary component of its curriculum. It was a rewarding and educational experience, and I can say that the role of full-time educator was much more demanding than anticipated – it is one thing to know the subject matter you are teaching, but an entirely different matter to be able to communicate that material to those who are new to the concepts. I think my favorite humbling quote came from one student after I spent about 20 minutes going over the steps of what I thought was a reasonably simple mathematical concept. When I asked if there were any questions, a girl raised her hand and told me she didn’t get it. When I asked her what part she didn’t understand, she matter-of-factly stated, “All of it!”

I have since learned that we are all educators to some degree, whether we realize it or not, and many people simply do not “get” what we may see as obvious. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just that we are all individuals who view things from our own perspectives, and it is in that context that we evaluate what we encounter. I have often thought that much of what our R&R Program has been working toward is obvious. Who doesn’t want to eliminate blight, clean up contamination, recycle infrastructure, and improve our communities? Nonetheless, we’ve struggled to find the money necessary to complete projects.

Not everything we try will be supported, and money will not be forthcoming without a lengthy struggle. Learning to do what we can, with the resources we can cobble together is key, since we will continue to meet obstacles. Learning when to change direction or try something new, and even admit defeat and move on, is critical to our success (and sanity!). Keep in mind that we are all educators, and our audience is everyone we meet, every day. Understand that we often must educate others using perseverance and patience, in order to move our cause forward. Never stop your personal teaching and be willing to learn a little from others as you venture along the way.

John Carnahan
Brownfield Coordinator

Partners in Progress:
New Early Childhood Learning Center in Toksook Bay

In the fall of 2009 the Rural Alaska Community Action Program (RurAL CAP) contacted DEC’s Reuse and Redevelopment Program, on behalf of the City of Toksook Bay, to discuss submitting an application for an EPA Targeted Brownfield Assessment (TBA). The City had a parcel of land on the community’s former airport apron in mind for a new site for their early childhood education programs. The high, level lot, with plenty of gravel base, would be an ideal location for a new Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center, to replace their aging and outgrown Head Start facility, which was plagued by flooding.

Former Head Start facility in Toksook Bay. The old structure was built in 1967 and was no longer adequate for the needs of the students, parents, and faculty. Photo from RurAL CAP.

RurAL CAP and the City of Toksook Bay had several potential sources of funding for the new facility, as well as a great deal of community support and commitment, but felt an environmental assessment would be a good idea. Past use of the site was as an airport runway, and it is located next door to the former Alaska Army National Guard armory, a listed contaminated site. Toksook Bay, a traditional Yup’ik village located on Nelson Island, approximately 115 air miles northwest of Bethel, is one of seven villages served by the Nelson Island Consortium’s (NIC) Tribal Response Program. NIC’s brownfield coordinator, Joey Billy, also assisted the City with the application for the TBA.

The TBA included both Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments (ESA); a Phase I ESA, at a minimum, is required by many funding agencies for certain types of projects. During the records review conducted as part of the Phase I ESA, it was discovered in a set of historical aerial photographs that the airport runway had been in use since at least 1954. Further records indicated that the site had been conveyed by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to the Nunakauiak Yupik Corporation in 2005.

                                                    Former airport runway apron, City of Toksook Bay, summer 2009.

The field work for the TBA was completed in June 2010, and the final reports were provided in March 2011. A few environmental concerns were identified in the TBA, but none were problematic enough to hold up the new development. By the summer of 2011 the construction package was on a barge to Toksook Bay, and the building was finished and ready for use in December 2011.

The new building houses Head Start, Early Head Start, and Parents as Teachers programs, and continues a nearly ten-year tradition of the City of Toksook Bay’s partnership with RurAL CAP to administer child development programs. Said Joanne LaBaw, manager of EPA’s TBA Program, "I was pleased to be able to provide a TBA for such a worthwhile cause." The project is a great example of leveraging resources through strong partnerships, and of course committed community support. Funding was obtained from multiple agencies, including funds from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a designated grant from the Alaska State Legislature, a Rasmuson Foundation Grant, and a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Development. Congratulations to the City of Toksook Bay and RurAL CAP for this wonderful new community success story!

                  Toksook Bay’s new Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center, January 2012. Photo by Gary Peterson.

Thanks to RurAL CAP’s Janet Hall ( and Charlene Stern (

Sonja Benson
Brownfield Program Specialist

Environmental Justice Developments in Alaska

Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Organizations, including the state and non-profits, have been working to address environmental justice concerns in Alaska through the implementation of programs funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In October 2009 the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation was awarded a State Environmental Justice Cooperative Agreement (SEJCA) by EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice. The grant, which was specific to the state’s new primacy for wastewater discharge permitting, funded a project to develop a model communications protocol, tools for coordination and communication between tribes and the state, and training for DEC staff and tribes to foster inclusion of local knowledge in wastewater discharge permitting. The project brought together rural participants from Ruby, Kaltag, Nulato, Koyukuk, Louden, and Huslia. For more information on this work, visit:

In September 2011, Anchorage-based Zender Environmental Health and Research Group (Zender Group) was awarded an Environmental Justice Small Grant from EPA. This grant is funding development and distribution of an environmental justice solid waste informational “Toolbox” for Alaska tribes, and creation, from Alaska tribal input, of a “Roadmap” to find solutions to Alaska tribal environmental justice concerns. The Toolbox was based on input gathered from ten tribes at the Alaska Tribal Conference on Environmental Management in November 2011. Zender Group continues to distribute the completed Toolbox, Alaska Tribal Environmental Justice on Solid Waste Guidance Toolbox—Our Voice Counts and Matters, at conferences, forums, and online at Zender Group is still gathering tribal input to guide the direction of the Roadmap.

Clearly there are many fields in which environmental justice could, indeed must, be considered. It is equally clear that brownfield programs are a natural fit with environmental justice, since blighted, underused properties are often disproportionately found in underprivileged neighborhoods and communities. Expect to see more discussion of environmental justice paired with brownfields in future issues of this newsletter. In the meantime, funding is available for your own environmental justice work through EPA. The Environmental Justice Small Grants Program supports and empowers communities working on solutions to local environmental and public health issues. The program assists recipients in building collaborative partnerships to help them understand and address environmental and public health issues in their communities. The application period is now open, with a submittal deadline of February 29, 2012. To learn more about EPA’s Environmental Justice Small Grants Program, visit:

                                                      “Environmental Justice for All”
                              Photo of her son, Tabaaha, by Jacqueline “Aparpak” Shirley.

Thanks to Zender Group’s Jacqueline Shirley,, (907) 952-9973.
And DEC’s Division of Water’s Miriah Twitchell,, (907) 465-5272

Sonja Benson
Brownfield Program Specialist

Highlighting Five New Tribal Response Programs

In October 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) awarded funding for five new Tribal Response Programs (TRPs) in Alaska. We are excited to work with these new programs, and hope our partnerships lead to sites being cleaned up and reused across the state. A drum-roll and spotlight, please, for the new TRPs…

Copper River Native Association

Willard “Bill” Hand, Tribal Response Program Coordinator
Telephone: (907) 822-8844, Email:

The Copper River Native Association (CRNA) is a nonprofit organization that serves the Ahtna Region. The Ahtna Region includes the Copper River Basin and eight predominantly Native villages within its boundaries: Cantwell, Gulkana, Tazlina, Gakona, Chistochina, Chitina, Copper Center, and Mentasta. In its first year of development, the CRNA TRP will be focused on: 1) Creating a regional inventory of potential brownfield sites, 2) Building regional capacity for brownfield prevention by promoting the establishment of a citizen advisory council to oversee the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, 3) Creating a public record of planned and active contaminated site assessments, such as the Targeted Brownfield Assessment of the defunct Copper Valley School in Tazlina, and cleanups, 4) Developing materials for training tribal environmental technicians, including site assessment basics and the site cleanup process, and 5) Encouraging public awareness of brownfields through participation in public meetings, council meetings, and cooperative planning meetings with other regional Indian General Assistance Program staff, and by creating an informational website and contributing to the CRNA newsletter. The CRNA TRP aims to protect the environment, support the reuse and redevelopment of brownfield sites, and empower the people of the region with the knowledge and skills necessary to ensure the natural resources of the region are sustainable for future generations.

Craig Tribal Association

Kerri Henderson, Project Coordinator
Telephone: (907) 826-3996, Email:

The Craig Tribal Association (CTA) is a federally recognized tribe located on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska. The CTA TRP will ensure the protection of the CTA’s natural resources by inspecting the Craig Tribal area for illegal or abandoned sites that may include solid waste and hazardous substances. In the first year, CTA will develop an advisory group for their TRP. The group will help steer the direction of the tribe toward identifying potential brownfield sites within the traditional territory of the Craig Tribe. An initial survey and inventory of all identified potential brownfield sites will be completed within the first year.

Douglas Indian Association

Eric Morrison, Environmental Planner
Telephone: (907) 364-2916, Email:

During its first year of development, the Douglas Indian Association (DIA) Brownfield Program will create an inventory that includes potential brownfield sites and sites identified through community outreach activities. The DIA has completed five years of water sampling on the Taku River, which identified some elements, such as aluminum, above safe aquatic habitat levels. The Brownfield Program plans to continue investigation of sites along the Taku River, to ensure that traditional practices of gathering and fishing are safe.

Hydaburg Cooperative Association

Dorinda Sanderson, Brownfields Coordinator
Telephone: (907) 285-3666, Email:

In its first year, the Hydaburg Cooperative Association Brownfields Program will develop an inventory of sites in the Hydaburg area that may be brownfields. One way the inventory list will be built is by surveying locals about areas of concern. The program will ultimately work toward cleanup projects. The people of the Hydaburg Cooperative Association have a heavy reliance on the natural resources for food and shelter, so protecting the environment is a top tribal priority.

Orutsararmiut Native Council

Teddy Street, Brownfields Program Manager
Telephone: (907) 543-2608, Email:

The Orutsararmiut Native Council (ONC) is located in Bethel. The ONC Brownfield Program will be the voice for the Orutsararmiut Tribe when it comes to cleaning up contaminated sites in Bethel and along the Kuskokwim River adjacent to Bethel. One of ONC’s main focuses for the first year of program development will be community outreach and education – getting the word out that there are underutilized contaminated sites in the area. One example of a known brownfield in Bethel is the old Bureau of Indian Affairs school; the buildings have been sitting there for years and nothing has really been done about cleaning it up. It’s a great piece of real estate and there can be so much done with it to benefit the community. Another priority for ONC’s first year of brownfield work will be establishing an inventory of potential brownfield sites. The community will be engaged to identify sites for the inventory.

Melinda Brunner
Environmental Program Specialist

Erik Norberg
Environmental Program Specialist

Distinction between the Brownfield Inventory and the Public Record

Each of the new Tribal Response Programs (TRPs) will have to meet requirements laid out by the EPA. For example, states and tribes receiving EPA State & Tribal Response Program funding must establish and maintain a potential brownfield site inventory and a public record. So what’s the difference between an inventory and a public record?

Creating a brownfield site inventory is important for "kick-starting" the redevelopment process. A good starting point is to determine a list of known contaminated sites using DEC’s online Contaminated Sites Database. This database can be queried by town and is accessible online at This list can also be searched as a map, using the Map of Contaminated Sites online at . A location map, in a Geographical Information System format, should accompany the inventory if possible, so that the locations of brownfield sites can be identified and evaluated in the context of their surroundings. To enhance the inventory, interviews with people with knowledge of the sites in the community are invaluable.

   An inventory should include the following information:
  • Site location
  • Any known environmental assessment
  • Photographs, if any
  • Ownership (public versus private ownership should be noted)
  • Description of current site condition: buildings or vacant land
  • General site history

The public record must include sites where response actions have been completed during the previous year and sites at which response actions are planned to occur in the next year. The public record also identifies sites that, upon completion of the response action, will be suitable for unrestricted use. If the site will not be available for unrestricted use, the public record will identify the institutional controls relied on in the remedy.

   A public record should include the following types of information:
  • Sites for which action has occurred the previous year
  • Sites where action is planned in the next year
  • Types of actions completed or planned
  • Site status and intended reuse or redevelopment

Erik Norberg
Environmental Program Specialist


Meet Our New Juneau Point of Contact for R&R: Erik Norberg

With six Tribal Response Programs (TRPs) now active in Southeast Alaska, three of which are new since last fall, the Reuse and Redevelopment Program has designated a new Southeast point of contact based in our Juneau office.

Erik Norberg has lived in Juneau since 1996 and started work at DEC in June of 2010. Before coming to DEC, he worked for eight years as a hydrologist with the Forestry Sciences Lab in Juneau. Erik is also active in volunteer organizations in Juneau, such as the Juneau Watershed Partnership where he serves as president of the board, and at the local high school science fairs. He also helps organize a local elementary school science night and an outreach program educating students on basic water quality monitoring. In his off time, he enjoys working out, snowboarding, a good game of soccer or rugby, and coaching his son’s soccer team.

Erik has experience in various communities of Southeast Alaska, and has been working with some of the new TRPs to help them develop their brownfield inventories and research information on listed contaminated sites. He’s an expert on DEC’s Contaminated Sites Database and developed a presentation to demonstrate how to navigate the database to find site information.

Erik’s contact information is below. We are happy to have Erik as part of our R&R team. Welcome Erik!

Erik Norberg
Environmental Program Specialist
410 Willoughby Avenue, Suite 303
Juneau, Alaska 99811-1800
(907) 465-5368

Sonja Benson
Brownfield Program Specialist

Brownfield Calendar

Alaska Forum on the Environment: Anchorage

Coming up next week! Visit for more information.
      When: February 6-10, 2012
      Where: Dena’ina Convention Center, Anchorage

Bering Straits Environmental Conference: Nome

      When: February 21-24, 2012
      Where: Mini Convention Center, Nome

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