Division of Spill Prevention and Response


Cold Bay Fort Randall

Database Name: Cold Bay Fort Randall

Status: Active

Location: Cold Bay

Latitude: See database entries

Longitude: See database entries


DEC Contaminated Sites contact: Deb Caillouet, Project Manager - 907-269-0298

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Contact : Ron Pflum, Project Manager- 907-753-5785

Summary updated: Oct. 6, 2005

Click on photos or maps for larger versions.


View of Mount Frosty

View of Mount Frosty and tundra, near Cold Bay. (DEC photo)

Drum Disposal and Beach Seep Areas

Fuel storage tanks and pipelines, plus buried drums were the sources of contamination at the Drum Disposal Area and Beach Seep Area in Cold Bay. (DEC photo)


Cold Bay is located at the western end of the Alaska Peninsula. It is about about 640 miles southwest of Anchorage. The only available transportation to the community is by air or sea. Prior to 1890, the area apparently was inhabited by a relatively large Native population, as evidenced by the presence of numerous kitchen middens and other archaeological sites. Since none of these sites has been excavated, the culture and fate of these people are unknown.

Cold Bay has a population of 95, according to the 2003 State Demographer's estimate. The town services the fishing industry and houses a number of federal offices, with services focused on Aleutian transportation and wildlife protection. The airport serves as the regional center for air transportation on the Alaska Peninsula, and as an international hub for private aircraft. Cold Bay also provides services and fuel for the fishing industry.

Cold Bay became a Naval Reservation by Executive Order in 1890, but from 1890 to 1940, Cold Bay was uninhabited except for a few subsistence hunters and trappers. During World War II, Cold Bay's strategic location was recognized as important for national defense; therefore, the Civil Aeronautics Administration started construction of the East-West Runway (EWR) in September 1940. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Army took over runway construction in February 1942. The Army also constructed the North-South Runway, docking facilities, and related support facilities, including fuel storage tanks, fuel piping systems, Yakutat huts, Quonset huts, and wooden frame structures.

Fort Randall Army Base was activated in 1942. Two coastal defenses were also established, one at Grant Point and the other at Mortensen's Lagoon. Military activities expanded in 1943 with the construction of the Naval Auxiliary Air Facility. After the U.S. capture of Attu and the occupation of Kiska in August 1943, the military importance of Cold Bay diminished. The peak population of this area was approximately 9,000 military personnel. In January 1944 Fort Randall and the airfield were placed in caretaker status. The Naval Auxiliary Air Facility was decommissioned in November of that year. The base was maintained in caretaker status until it and Fort Randall were closed and abandoned in 1950, leaving hundreds of structures in place.

Drum disposal area, before revegetation

Drum disposal area, before revegetation. (DEC photo)

Revegetated drum disposal area, before revegetation

Revegetated drum disposal area, showing one monitoring well on the right. (DEC photo)

Drum Disposal and Beach Seep Area
During WWII, Fort Randall was supplied at any given time with approximately 4,000 to 5,000, fifty-five gallon drums of heating oil, lubricants, solvents, pesticides, and volatile fuels. Historic photographs show that the Drum Disposal and Beach Seep Area was used to store large numbers of 55-gallon drums. At some point an unknown number of drums were buried there. Prior to the initial excavation and removal activities in 1998, there were visible signs of buried drums, including partially exposed drums, corroded drums, and stained soils.

In 1998 three drum burial areas were excavated as part of an Interim Removal Action (glossary link). A total of 2,138 drums were removed. Over half were empty or contained rainwater. During the drum removal, aboveground and below-ground pipelines were removed. In 1999 another Interim Removal Action excavated 129 drums, along with the remains of a wood stave tank used for bulk fuel storage. Another wood stave tank was excavated from an area identified as the WAX, and another 140' of pipeline was drained and removed.

In 2001 approximately 5760 cubic yards of contaminated soil were thermally treated and backfilled into the excavation. An interim removal action for the beach seep in 1998 involved installation of a High Vacuum Extraction system. This system has been in operation ever since and has extracted 3,436 gallons of free product and treated 2,120,770 gallons of groundwater.

Collapsed Wooden Building (CWB)
During a 1998 Cold Bay public meeting, input was received regarding a stack of approximately 300 fifty-five gallon drums located in a collapsed wooden structure northwest of the runway intersection. Investigation showed the drums to be primarily stacked on the wooden floor area. A total of 207 empty drums and 18 drums containing liquid were removed in August 1999.

Asphalt Seeps (ASA)
Also during the 1998 public meeting an asphalt seep near the runway was reported. The 1998 investigation identified two seeps and in 1999 a geophysical survey identified two burial trenches suspected of containing 55-gallon drums. The asphalt seep area is likely the result of disposal of excess drums of asphalt following runway paving. They are located near a gravel access road and are just north of Lake Burns.

Stapp Creek and the East West Runway
The Stapp Creek Area is located approximately ½ mile south of the East-West Runway (EWR). The underground storage tanks for aviation gasoline, or "av-gas", span approximately 0.8 miles, roughly paralleling the northern portion of Stapp Creek. During WWII, the av-gas distribution system consisted of thirty-eight 25,000 gallon steel underground tanks, each approximately 40 feet long and 11 feet in diameter. Av-gas fuel was transferred from the Cold Bay dock via an 8-inch pipeline to the 32 tanks buried in the south wall of the Stapp Creek gully and six tanks at the EWR. The tanks were typically placed in pairs and piped in series. Two truck fill stations were used to fill fuel-transfer trucks. Currently Stapp Creek runs to the north of the tank area through a wetland. The creek runs clear and appears to be pristine with a sandy bottom and green aquatic plants. It supports a run of chum salmon. An indeterminate number of the tanks were removed in the mid 1980's. An additional 15 underground tanks were removed in 1997. In 1998 a section of pipeline crossing Stapp Creek was removed.

The East-West Runway area includes the areas just north of that runway and the area just east of the North-South Runway. During WWII, six av-gas underground tanks were located in this area along with several truck fill stations. Because of its proximity to the runways the EWR area is quite flat and relatively free of vegetation. Underground utilities are present in the area. Two pairs of tanks were removed from the EWR in 1999. One tank remains at each of the sites.


Public Health and Environmental Concerns

Contaminated Soils
Contaminants of concern in soil at Fort Randall include petroleum hydrocarbons, beta-BHC (a pesticide), and 1,2-dibromoethane (or ethylene dibromide [EDB], a gasoline additive) at the Drum Disposal Area/Beach Seep Area. At the Asphalt Seeps, contaminants are asphalt, containing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs -see glossary), Diesel Range Organics (DRO -see glossary) and residual range organics (RRO -see glossary). PAHs are contaminants of concern at Stapp Creek, and petroleum hydrocarbons and PAHs are of concern at the East-West Runway. It should be noted that investigation conducted at Bury Pit Nos. 1 and 2 at the Asphalt Seeps Area has not fully defined the contaminants present there because drum contents are unknown; additional contaminants of concern may be identified at those sites in the future.

Contaminated Sediments
Contaminated sediments are present at the Beach Seep Area. Fuel-related contamination in beach sediments at the site extends approximately 250 feet north to south, 35 feet east to west, and approximately 1.5 to 2 feet below ground surface. The total volume of contaminated sediments is approximately 650 cubic yards.

LNAPL Contamination
Pure petroleum contaminants are generally referred to as light non-aqueous phase liquids (LNAPL - see glossary) because they are lighter than water and will not readily mix with water. LNAPL contamination is present at the Drum Disposal Area and Beach Seep Area. A portion of LNAPL contamination consists of mobile contamination floating on the groundwater surface; this contamination generally is referred to as free product. The remainder of the LNAPL contamination is trapped as immobile droplets beneath the water table or as semi-mobile contamination above the LNAPL layer. The lateral extent of free product contamination changes over time as the water table rises and falls. Over long periods, the free product layer will decrease as fuel dissolves into the groundwater and biodegrades or migrates off site.

Over shorter periods, the extent of free product contamination tends to grow when the water table drops or remains stationary and tends to shrink when the water table rises.

Two distinct free product plumes are associated with the Drum Disposal Area and Beach Seep Area. These plumes float on top of a larger plume of dissolved phase groundwater contamination. Although the extent of the free product plumes changes over time, the plumes have extended for as much as 425 feet along the beach and up to 375 feet inland, and have covered as much as 2.8 acres.

Groundwater Contamination

Contaminants of concern in groundwater at the facility include petroleum hydrocarbons at the Drum Disposal Area and Beach Seep Area and RRO and lead at the Asphalt Seeps area. In addition, two fuel additives are present in groundwater at the Drum Disposal Area: lead (possibly from leaded gasoline) and EDB (an additive to leaded gasoline used to keep tetraethyl- lead in suspension). EDB also is present in groundwater at the Beach Seep Area.

Buried Drums

In the Asphalt Seeps area, buried drums have been detected in three locations: two drum trenches located in Bury Pit No. 1 and a larger area of buried drums at Bury Pit No. 2. It is estimated that up to 2800 drums could be contained in the two trenches. Bury Pit No. 2 was identified as a permitted landfill from the cleanup efforts in the mid 1980's. Petroleum compounds have been identified in the soil above risk based standards.


Current Status

An investigation to find the best remedy ("remedial investigation") was conducted at the following six locations in May and June 2002, and a feasibility study was prepared to evaluate cleanup options for each location: the Drum Disposal Area, Beach Seep Area, Asphalt Seeps, Stapp Creek, East-West Runway, and Collapsed Wooden Building. In addition, a series of interim removal actions have been conducted to remove contaminated soil and tanks, drums, and pipelines that had the potential to release additional contamination. With the exception of the Collapsed Wooden Building site, further action is required at each of the sites to ensure continued protection of human health and the environment.

A Proposed Plan has been prepared describing existing environmental conditions, discussing cleanup alternatives and presenting the preferred remedies and cleanup alternatives. The plan is now available for public review and comment on the alternatives described and provides information on how the public can be involved in the remedy selection process. This Proposed Plan is required under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the National Contingency Plan (NCP) to fulfill public participation requirements. The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers is the agent for the Department of Defense and, as such, is delegated the responsibility for addressing contamination at formerly used defense sites.

Final decisions on how to address the sites will not be made until all comments submitted during the public comment period have been reviewed and considered. The selected remedies may differ from the preferred alternatives if public comments or additional information indicate that such changes would result in more appropriate solutions. Remedial action will take place following selection of remedies for each of the sites.

Your involvement is an important element in making decisions for future cleanup actions at Cold Bay. If you are interested in voicing your opinion or comments, attend the public meeting on May 3rd, 2004, at 6:30 PM, at the Cold Bay City Hall/Library; or, if you prefer, you can submit written comments on the comment form included at the end of the Proposed Plan, downloadable below.

More Information

The decision document for five areas of concern at Fort Randall is available for download here. The document addresses only the Drum Disposal Area, Beach Seep Area, Collapsed Wooden Building, Stapp Creek, and East-West Runway. A separate decision document will be issued to address the Asphalt Seep Area.

"Decision Document for Five areas of concern on the Formerly Used Devels Site Property" August 2005 (PDF 6.5 MB) (Note: if you are unable to download this document because of its large size, please contact The Army Corps Project Manager, Ron Pflum, 907-753-5785.)

Information on the former Fort Randall site can be obtained from the Information Repository at Cold Bay, located at the City Clerk’s office. The repository contains site information, including detailed investigation reports, test results from field studies, and removal actions performed. Key documents containing background information regarding this Proposed Plan include:

Draft Proposed Plan : A copy of the Draft Proposed Plan is available at the Information Repository at Cold Bay. The documents listed above may also be obtained at the Jacobs Engineering Group offices, 4300 B Street, Suite 600, Anchorage (907-751-3332).
For further assistance in locating these documents, or if you have any questions, please contact:

U.S. Army Engineer District, Alaska, CEPOA-PM-C-FUDS
Mr. Ron Pflum, Post Office Box 6898, Elmendorf AFB, AK 99506-6898, (907) 753-5785

For questions regarding DEC regulations, please contact:

Ms. Deb Caillouet, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation
555 Cordova Street, Anchorage, AK 99501-2617, (907) 269-0298

Downloadable documents:

Contaminated Sites Database reports - There are a number of individual "contaminated sites" on Fort Randall, and reports on the status of each is available on DEC's database. We have a glossary available to help you with any acronyms used in the reports. To view these reports, please go to our Contaminated Sites database page and copy the following text into the site name window, one at a time.


Links off DEC pages

Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development Community Information Summary on Cold Bay (select Cold Bay from community list).