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North Pole Refinery Project Home

Updated: November 29, 2018

Piped Water System Expansion 

Construction to expand the City of North Pole’s piped water system is proceeding and on schedule. The water main lines were installed in Zones 1 and 2 this past summer, while water main line construction in Zones 3 and 4 is scheduled for 2019.

Signing up For Water Service 

The City of North Pole has sent notification letters to property owners who are eligible for water connection.

PFAS Investigation

This summer, DEC made use of an existing sulfolane monitoring program and sampled a small number of water wells in the North Pole area for a class of chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or “PFAS.” PFAS have been detected in drinking water supplies in some communities in Alaska, including Fairbanks and Moose Creek. DEC is aware that fire-fighting foams containing PFAS were historically used on the former North Pole Refinery property and are present in soil and groundwater on the refinery.

Sampling results show PFAS detections above DEC’s “action levels” in North Pole groundwater; however, there is no evidence that people are being exposed to PFAS above these action levels in their drinking water.

  • Due to sulfolane contaminated groundwater in the area, the residents and businesses in the North Pole piped water expansion project area are already being provided with safe alternative drinking water or point of entry (POE) well water treatment systems.
  • Results suggest that POE systems provided to some properties for removal of sulfolane are also effectively removing PFAS.
  • Results indicate the PFAS contamination extends from the former refinery. It is not yet known if there are any other PFAS sources.

For the initial PFAS sampling, DEC selected 4 private water wells fitted with POE treatment systems (for sulfolane removal) and 9 groundwater monitoring wells. In the POE systems, samples were taken both before and after treatment. PFAS were detected in all samples of water taken before treatment; some results were above the DEC action levels. All post-treatment samples show PFAS below the DEC action levels. Of the 9 groundwater monitoring well samples, 3 results were above DEC action levels, while the other 6 were below. Note that samples were collected from multiple depths in some of the locations.

More Extensive Sampling Conducted

DEC is currently conducting additional sampling to collect more information about the PFAS groundwater contamination. The second sampling event includes a greater number of well locations selected by groundwater specialists to:

  • Evaluate the boundaries of PFAS groundwater contamination,
  • Provide more information on the potential source(s) of PFAS in the groundwater, and
  • Confirm the effectiveness of the POE treatment systems in removing PFAS.

Results of the current sampling event are expected to be available to the public in late 2018. The most current information will be available at the December 5th Open House.  

In anticipation of questions about impacts to garden vegetables, DEC will also be evaluating the uptake of PFAS into produce irrigated with PFAS-contaminated groundwater. Soil samples will also be collected to evaluate impacts from irrigation water containing PFAS. DEC will work with DHSS to evaluate the garden exposure pathway and will provide information and results to the public as it becomes available.

DEC's Contaminated Groundwater Advisory - November 2018

DEC recently issued a Contaminated Groundwater Advisory to all property owners within the North Pole piped water expansion area where many private water wells contain sulfolane, and/or per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The advisory assists residents in avoiding unintentional contact with, or spreading of, the chemicals. 

While it is known that the spreading of pollution is not allowed under Alaska law, many may not be aware that using untreated, contaminated well water may cause the spread of pollution. Bringing impacted well water to the surface may expose people to the chemicals and/or allow the chemicals to spread onto other properties, sloughs, or ponds. In issuing this advisory, DEC is seeking the community’s assistance in minimizing the future spread of these contaminants.

Documents of General Interest