Division of Spill Prevention and Response


Ketchikan Pulp Corporation Mill Site

Incident location map. Summary Date: March 2004 View detailed information from database on this site.arrow
Status: Cleanup complete - Institutional Controls Database Name: KPC Ward Cove Pulp Mill
Location: Ward Cove, AK Latitude/Longitude: See database entry
DEC Contaminated Sites Contact: William Janes, Project Manager – 907-465-5208

More photos available at EPA's photo gallery.

The former Ketchikan Pulp Company mill at Wards Cove, AK

The former Ketchikan Pulp Company mill ceased operations in 1997.
(EPA photo)

Map of area.

The Ward Cove Mill Site can be safely occupied and used for commercial and industrial activities and was given "conditional closure" status in 2000.



The Ketchikan Pulp Company (KPC) mill was located on the north shore of Ward Cove, five miles north of Ketchikan. The mill operated from 1954 to 1997. The Department of Environmental Conservation and the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted an extensive and rigorous investigation, assessment, and cleanup of contamination after the mill closed. The predominant waste products generated from the mill included ash, wood waste, wastewater and the resulting wastewater-treatment sludge.

For purposes of managing the evaluation, the area was divided into an upland unit and a marine unit for Ward Cove. DEC and EPA jointly evaluated the upland unit, while EPA independently evaluated the marine unit for Ward Cove. The culmination of this work was formalized in a Record of Decision for each area in 2000 after substantive public review and comment (available below).

A baseline human health risk assessment was conducted to evaluate the potential for current and future impacts from site-related contaminants. Potential exposure of current and future on-site workers and offsite residents to contaminants via ingestion, dermal contact and inhalation was evaluated. Cleanup through removal of the principle sources of contamination at six areas in and around the mill site was completed by August 2001.

A combination of thin-layer capping, clean sediment mounds, dredging, and natural recovery were the selected remedies for the Ward Cove marine unit.

In the upland area, any future excavation or demolition activity requires proper sampling, characterization and management, to include disposal of any contaminated soil that may be found or exposed. Activities that may interfere with the integrity of remedial actions or potentially result in human exposure to contaminated material are limited or prohibited.

Institutional controls for each area are recorded in an Environmental Protection Easement and a Declaration of Restrictive Covenants with access rights and continued oversight reserved to DEC and EPA.


Former Human Health and Environmental Concerns


The pulp process generated wastewater discharges and air emissions containing chemical by-products. Sludge, boiler ash, wood waste disposal, and various spills and releases of oil and hazardous substances in and around the mill site contributed to overall contamination. Arsenic, lead, manganese, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and petroleum hydrocarbons were identified as contaminants of potential concern.

The risk assessment identified that people and wildlife could possibly have been exposed to contaminants through inhalation, skin absorption, or accidental ingestion of contaminated ash, soil, or surface water. Cleanup remedies were taken to prevent these forms of exposure.


Current Status


The Ward Cove Mill Site can be safely occupied and used for commercial and industrial activities and has been given "conditional closure" status, or "No Further Remedial Action Planned." At this writing, sixteen tenants currently hold on-site leases for various uses. Permanent controls are in place to ensure long-term protection of human health and the environment by preventing any future exposure to contamination and limit or prohibit activities which may interfere with the integrity of remedial actions. These "institutional controls" (see our glossary) are legal or administrative remedies, and they are summarized below:


  • Uplands area: Land use is presently restricted to commercial/industrial, except for the water pipeline access road where it is designated recreational. Groundwater use is not allowed. Future excavation or demolition activities require coordination with DEC to ensure proper sampling, characterization, and management of any contaminated soil that is found. An arsenic management plan limits human exposure to naturally-occurring arsenic found in site soils.

  • Marine area: Institutional controls were chosen to protect and enhance bottom-dwelling organisms in Ward Cove. The selected remedy includes a combination of thin-layer capping, placement of clean sediment mounds, dredging, removal of sunken logs in areas to be dredged, and natural recovery where capping or mounding is impractical. Any person who damages these caps or mounds shall be required, at EPA's discretion, to repair the damages.

Monitoring in 2004 has shown that thin layer capping has been successful in eliminating sediment toxicity and stimulating colonization by bottom-dwelling invertebrate species. By contrast, colonization by bottom-dwelling invertebrate species in most of the natural recovery areas has not progressed as rapidly. A link to the final monitoring report is provided below.


More Information


  • Final Monitoring Report 2004 on EPA website (PDF 23.3M)

  • FACT SHEET: EPA-DEC Record of Decision on the final cleanup plan for the former Ketchikan Pulp Company (KPC), Uplands Operable Unit June 2000 (PDF 28K)

  • DEC Site Summary, December 1999 (PDF 13K)

  • EPA web pages on cleanup of uplands and marine areas at KPC.