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Eielson Air Force Base

incident location map

DEC Contaminated Sites contact: Dennis Shepard, Project Manager working on Eielson, Contaminated Sites Program, Spill Prevention and Response Division, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, 610 University Ave., Fairbanks, AK  99709-3643 907-451-2180, 907-451-5105 Fax

U.S. Air Force contact: Gary Fink, GS-13 Chief, Eielson Environmental Restoration, DSN 317-552-8757, Comm 907-552-8757, Fax 907-552-5311

U.S. EPA contact: Dustan Bott, EPA Project Manager for Eielson, Office of Environmental Cleanup, 1200 6th Avenue, Suite 900 MS ECL-122, Seattle, WA 98101, 206-553-5502

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  • Contacts updated: August 22, 2018
  • Summary updated: June 2015

In the spring of 2015, sampling of drinking water supply wells at Eielson Air Force Base revealed the presence of the chemical perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) at levels exceeding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Provisional Health Advisory (PHA) level. PFOS is an "emerging contaminant," or chemical with limited data on human health effects. It is an ingredient found in many products, including fire-fighting foam. Contamination from PFOS likely originates from historical fire-fighting foam use at Eielson AFB, roughly from 1970 to 2000. State and federal regulatory agencies are aware of this situation and working with the Air Force to ensure human health and environmental protections and to make sure the contamination and any mitigating factors are addressed.


Eielson Air Force Base (AFB) is an active installation established in 1944. The mission of the base is to train and equip soldiers for close air support of ground troops in an arctic environment (Eielson AFB, 2005). Eielson AFB is located approximately 25 miles southeast of Fairbanks, Alaska.

The Base extends for 19,700 acres, most of which is forest, wetlands, lakes, and ponds beyond the approximately 3,650 acres which have been improved or partially improved, and are used for the bulk of Base activities. The base is located on the Tanana River floodplain and the slopes of the Yukon-Tanana uplands. Approximately 5,500 people live on base, with other personnel living in the nearby communities of North Pole, Salcha, and Moose Creek. The groundwater resources on base are used for drinking water and industrial, domestic, agricultural, and firefighting needs.

Historical operations at Eielson AFB have generated varying quantities of hazardous and nonhazardous wastes from industrial and airfield operations, fire training, and fuel management. On 21 November 1989, the EPA listed Eielson AFB on the National Priorities List (NPL) of federal Superfund sites by the Environmental Protection Agency. In the 1994 Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study for Eielson AFB, 66 source areas of possible contamination were found. These sites are evaluated through the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).

In the 1995 Record of Decision for Eielson AFB, 29 areas were divided into six Operable Units based on common characteristics or contaminants, and 31 other areas of contamination were evaluated through a source evaluation process (SER). A seventh OU (the Sitewide OU), which contains one source area (SS67) was added after the FFA was signed. The remaining contaminated sites are addressed through ADEC regulations.

Photo, Garrison Slough

At Garrison Slough, PCB contamination has impacted the sediments and fish tissue. A fishing restriction is in place for Garrison Slough.

Public Health and Environmental Concerns

Groundwater has been contaminated with lead and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as trichloroethylene (TCE), benzene, and tetrachloroethylene (PCE). Used oils, solvents, and fuel have been discharged onto the ground and into the soil. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and pesticides have been identified in soils and sediments at Garrison Slough.

People may be exposed to these pollutants through dermal contact or accidental ingestion of contaminated soil or water. Contaminants such as PCBs or pesticides may bioaccumulate in fish and may pose a health threat to humans if consumed.

Current Status

In the 1995 Record of Decision, many of the potential sites were found not to pose an unacceptable risk to human health and the environment and were closed by EPA and ADEC (the five-year Record of Decision Review for 2003 describing this action is available on the Eielson website). Several sites were given a conditional closure and were placed under "institutional controls" to prevent people from being exposed to any remaining contamination.

Remediation activities occurred during the 1990's at many of the contaminated sites on Eielson AFB. Petroleum-contaminated soil was excavated and treated by landfarming. Soil caps were installed to prevent human exposure to contamination and limit the transport of contamination. Other sites had active remediation systems installed such as soil vapor extraction, bioventing, and free-product recovery wells.

Gates in Garrison Slough

Gates in Garrison Slough which prevent the passage of fish into and out of the contaminated reach of the slough.

At Garrison Slough, PCB contamination has impacted the sediments and fish. A portion of the PCB-contaminated sediments have been excavated, and the PCB contamination in fish tissue and sediments continue to be monitored. A fishing restriction is in place for Garrison Slough and physical fish gates restrict the passage of fish into and out of the contaminated area.

Upon looking back at site histories, it was discovered that not all sites were delineated and monitored properly. As of the 2013 Five Year Review, 65 sites (28 of which are closed under the ROD) are in the Installation Restoration Program (IRP), 5 sites are state-regulated, and 27 sites and undergoing source evaluation.

Most sites are still in monitoring program to ensure contaminant plumes are stable or decreasing and are not moving offsite or to drinking water wells. Several sites are still being treated by active remediation systems. Institutional controls, such as restriction of ground-water use in certain areas, fishing advisory, and a dig permitting process for construction activities, are in place at Eielson AFB to prevent exposure to any remaining contamination

More Information

Excavation at Garrison Slough

Excavation of large underground storage tank on base.

Contaminated Sites Database reports

There are a number of individual "contaminated sites" on the air station, and reports on the status of each is available on DEC's database. To see more, go to our database page and choose "Eielson AFB" in the City field. The list below are a number of the major ones. We have a glossary available to help you with any acronyms used in the reports.

DEC fact sheets