Forest Service 3030 Road Cleanup, Prince of Wales Island
|Summary Date: September 2008||View detailed information from database on this site.|
|Status: Open||Database Name: Forest Service Road 3030|
|Location: Near Coffman Cove, AK||Latitude/Longitude: See database entry|
Road construction along Forest Service Road 3030, shown as the heavy black line, has resulted in water quality concerns along a small portion of it. (Diagram from Travis/Peterson Environmental Consulting, Inc.)
The above map shows in red the sections of Forest Service Road 3030 where "B5" rock, the likely source of acid rock drainage, was placed.
In the spring of 2008, a preliminary investigation of acid rock drainage along a Prince of Wales Island road project confirmed serious harm to fish and aquatic life and habitat downstream of the road. The affected waters are streams, wetlands and Sweetwater Lake along Forest Service Road 3030, in the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska. At least several of these streams host important runs of coho and sockeye salmon.
A specific source of shale used to build 3½ miles of roadbed is the cause, and a solution is not within easy reach. The full impacts may not be readily apparent. Preliminary field sampling has confirmed impacts due to acid/metals exposure, and efforts have begun to conduct a much-expanded assessment needed to fill information gaps and to ensure data accuracy.
In November of 2007, the Federal Highways Administration’s Western Federal Lands Highway Division notified DEC’s Division of Water about the water quality violations. In January of 2008, the Division of Water requested a report of their monitoring work, and a draft version of the report came out in May of 2008. The U.S. Forest Service has exercised lead federal agency authority for remediation under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). DEC’s Contaminated Sites Program is leading the department's efforts.
The Forest Service and Federal Highways have agreed to do some removal work this fall. The State is collecting data to evaluate the biological impacts of releases from Forest Service Road 3030.
All participating state and federal agencies having a shared desire to begin to address environmental problems as soon as possible. The Forest Service and Federal Highways have begun a time-critical removal action (see work plan below). The scope of work for this removal has been developed in cooperation with state agencies. The State is collecting data to evaluate the biological impacts of releases from the Forest Service Road 3030. Federal Highways, the Forest Service, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are also gathering additional information to provide a better understanding of the extent and magnitude of adverse effects on the ecosystem. These efforts are coordinated, and information will be shared.
The Forest Service and Federal Highways have begun a community involvement effort and will soon post a website for that purpose. For more information, contact Phil Sammon, 907-228-6201.
The Forest Service Road 3030 improvement project began in 2002 to reconstruct an old logging road. The western division of the Federal Highway Administration began upgrades to widen and improve the road for general use. The road links the City of Coffman Cove to the main north/south route on the island, North Prince of Wales Road. This road is important to the community for inter-island commerce and connection to the inter-island ferry.
Water quality concerns surfaced in June 2007 when representatives of the Western Federal Lands Highway Division noticed excessive corrosion of a culvert in place for only eight months. Water quality monitoring that year revealed a very acidic pH of 2.3 units just downstream of the culvert, a violation of the Alaska water quality standards. Normal pH levels in Southeast Alaska can range from 4.5 to 7.0. Low pH readings at four other culverts, all at fish-bearing streams, also exceeded the standards, as did high levels of iron and copper. Iron stains and related flocculation are visible downstream of the road in several streams near Sweetwater Lake along a 3-1/2-mile stretch. (See photo gallery.) The federal highways agency notified DEC of water quality violations in November 2007 and conducted some monitoring early in 2008. Their preliminary effort documented acidic stream conditions and elevated metal concentrations.
Fish are leaving and avoiding the affected streams, and aquatic insects indicative of a healthy stream habitat are being killed. These conditions can halt the life cycle of many fish species. Potential human health impacts so far seem limited to possible use of affected streamwater for drinking purposes. The Forest Service has posted advisory signs at stream crossings throughout the effected segment of USFS Road 3030 for people using the area, including a public recreation cabin on Sweetwater Lake. There are no dwellings on any other affected streams.
Rock used as road fill from a material source known as "B-5" is apparently the source of the acid-generating rock. While the exact release mechanisms are still being determined, it appears that water on exposed B-5 rock generates acidic leachate, dissolving iron and copper in the rock. This “acid rock drainage” occurs in the 3½ -mile section of road where the fill was placed beginning in 2005. Roadbed construction occurred in areas of muskeg where rock was placed as deep as 20 feet below ground for road stabilization. Release of the acid rock drainage, copper and iron may continue if measures are not taken to stop them. There is not yet enough information to determine appropriate long-term measures to protect the valuable resources affected, but removal of the B-5 material appears to be the most effective approach. One of the goals of the investigation is to determine what engineering activities or non-engineering activities such as institutional controls are appropriate.
Human Health and Environmental Concerns
The potentially serious ecological concerns include: possible long-term effects on salmon runs in approximately six streams through disruption of salmon spawning cycles. There does not appear to be a threat to human health at this time other than possible use of affected surface water for drinking. The primary concerns are for effects on life cycles of salmon and other fish, as well as the health of the streams in the affected areas. Both the low pH and high metal concentrations in the affected streams have adversely impacted aquatic and vegetative life forms. While the copper concentration in the streams is high for aquatic life, it is within the allowable limits set for drinking water in Alaska.
The United States Forest Service (USFS) and Western Federal Lands Highway Division (WFLHD) have agreed to do some removal work this fall along portions of Forest Service Road 3030. This will be a "time-critical removal action" under CERCLA. Work is expected to begin September 15th, 2008 (See Action Memo and Work Plan below). All agencies have agreed that the highest priority site for the removal action is the fill/culvert area around Stream 3 (Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game stream # 30-27).
The actions for Fall 2008 include:
At Stream 3, removal and replacement of the acid-generating rock, estimated to be 20,000 cubic yards of material.
Placement of the removed B-5 material into one or two limestone quarry pits, for either temporary storage or final disposal.The material will be covered with geotextile fabric to shed precipitation.
Removal of B-5 material along a trench at the quarry which supplied the B-5, acid-generating rock. The trench will be dug to the level of groundwater and filled with limestone. This effort will serve to test a possible treatment method. At another site, peat and soil were stockpiled as unsuitable for use as road fill, however some B-5 material is present and is causing an acid rock drainage release. A limestone drain will be placed a the seep to buffer the seepage to restore water quality.
The timelines for implementation are very aggressive, bounded by logistics and weather. DEC's Contaminated Sites staff are participating on the technical project team to provide comments on the proposed work.
WFLHD and the Forest Service will implement longer-term data collection and analysis in the Fall of 2008 and Winter/Spring 2009. The work is intended to identify the best options for the remaining acid-generating rock and help develop a comprehensive monitoring plan for the interim response actions as well as any additional actions to be implemented.
Paving of Forest Service Road 3030 is in progress, having been scheduled for some time. Island residents, particularly those in Coffman Cove, are very concerned that use of the road continue and that it remains passable during the winter. The road provides a valuable link to the rest of the island, facilitating travel and commerce over the island and easy access to the inter-island ferry terminal in Coffman Cove. The technical project team debated the merits of paving the portion of the road where B-5 rock was used, given that large portions may likely be removed over the next few years. The team decided to continue with the paving except in the three areas where removal will take place this fall, with the stipulation that paving now is not meant to deter later removal. An asphalt cover on the road may possibly slow the water quality degradation, although this has not been proven to help. Paving will facilitate winter road maintenance and not be a significant cost consideration when it is later removed. A thinner layer of asphalt will be applied this year, and traffic on the road will be restricted to legal loads.
Of concern to the state is the fact that the USFS has not scheduled a comprehensive baseline data collection which would demonstrate impacts to the streams, therefore DEC is collecting the data for a natural resource assessment. Due to the serious nature of the environmental concerns and likely long-term effects, DEC has provided state funding to do the necessary field work for data collection. EPA is working cooperatively with USFS, FWHA, and DEC to gather information to evaluate the extent to which the site presents a threat to the environment by, among other things, collecting and analyzing environmental media samples to support a decision regarding the need for further Superfund action.
|See Gallery of photos|
Interagency Agreement between the U.S. Forest Service, Region 10, and the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, September 25, 2008, (PDF 1.4M)
Time Critical Removal Action Memorandum, U.S. Forest Service, September 7, 2008, (PDF 572K)
Time Critical Removal Work Plan, AMEC Geomatrix, Inc., August 2008, (PDF 9.1M)