Division of Spill Prevention and Response

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Pribilof Islands

Database Name: St. Paul, St. George or “TPA,” which stands for Two-Party Agreement

Status: St. Paul and St. George – Both sites are cleanup complete with institutional controls

Location: St. Paul Island and St. George Island

Latitude: See database entries

Longitude: See database entries

 

DEC Contaminated Sites contact: Louis Howard, Project Manager, (907) 269-7552

U.S. Department of Commerce contact: David B. Winandy, Environmental Engineer, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Safety and Environmental Compliance Office, (206) 526-4912 (Seattle)

Contacts updated: June 11, 2014

Summary updated: June 2008

Click on photos or maps for larger versions.



Photo of fur seals

Fur seals have played an important role in the history of the people who live on the Pribilof Islands. (NOAA photo)

 

location map, Pribilof Islands

Map courtesy of NOAA

Description

These islands in the Bering Sea are part of a five-island archipelago known as the Pribilof Islands. The city of St. Paul is located on a narrow peninsula on the southern tip of St. Paul Island, the largest of the five. It lies 47 miles north of St. George Island, 240 miles north of the Aleutian Islands, 300 miles west of the Alaska mainland, and 750 air miles west of Anchorage. The city of St. George is on the northeast shore of St. George Island, the second largest of the Pribilof Islands.


The Aleut Corporation, a regional Native corporation, is the main subsurface rights holder on the Pribilof Islands. The two village corporations for each island are: the St. George Tanaq Corporation for St. George Island and the Tanadgusix (TDX) Corporation on St. Paul Island. Other tribal entities are the Tribal Government of St. Paul Island and the St. George Traditional Council.


The Pribilofs were discovered in 1786 by Russian fur traders. Two years later, the Russian American Company enslaved and relocated Aleuts from Siberia, Atka and Unalaska to the Pribilofs to hunt fur seals; a number of their descendants now live on the two islands. During World War II, the Pribilof Aleuts were moved to Southeast Alaska as part of the emergency evacuation of residents from the Bering Sea but confined in an abandoned cannery and mine camp. In 1979, the Aleut Islanders received $8.5 million in partial compensation for the unfair and unjust treatment they were subject to under federal administration from 1870, when the U.S. government began controlling the commercial seal harvest, to 1946. In 1983, Congress passed the Fur Seal Act Amendments, ending government control of the commercial seal harvest and the federal presence on the island. Responsibility for providing community services and management of the fur seals was left to local entities. Funding was provided to help develop and diversify the island economy - $12 million to St. Paul and $8 million to St. George. Commercial seal harvesting ceased in 1985. Ownership of fur seal pelts is now prohibited except for subsistence purposes.


Petroleum contamination has been detected at a number of properties currently and formerly owned and operated by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its predecessor agencies. Some of these sites occur within the two cities, and others are scattered across each island. NOAA's National Ocean Service Office of Response and Restoration is responsible for site restoration activities at St. George and St. Paul Islands in Alaska. NOAA is the last of a series of federal agencies which managed the fur trade on the islands.


Affected properties are described in a two-party agreement between NOAA and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) dated January 26, 1996. Site restoration activities are to be conducted in accordance with the agreement. Under State of Alaska regulations and in accordance with the two-party agreement, NOAA has undertaken site characterization and restoration activities on St. George and St. Paul Islands. Additional work must be conducted to satisfy the agreement, including limited site characterization, remediation, confirmation sampling, and site restoration. NOAA is the responsible party for cleaning up these sites to protect human health, welfare, safety, and the environment. DEC oversees the cleanup to assure it meets the State of Alaska standards. Some $76 million has been spent on cleaning up the islands since the mid-1990s, and much of the work has been done by local people working for environmental restoration firms started by Native village corporations.


NOAA and DEC work with community members through a Restoration Advisory Board composed of members from both islands.

View of the former drum dump site

View of the excavation at the Lukanin Bay site on St. Paul Island, where petroleum contaminated soil was removed. (NOAA photo)

Human Health and Environmental Concerns

People may be exposed to pollutants through vapor inhalation, direct contact with the skin, or accidental ingestion of contaminated soil at the sites. None of the private or public drinking water wells have been impacted by these contaminated sites -- residents of both communities receive piped water from wells.

 

Specific environmental concerns at the Pribilofs include:

 

Current Status

NOAA obtained an alternative cleanup level for soil and groundwater in the Tract 46 Industrial area on St. Paul Island. This involved demonstrating that groundwater is not used for drinking water, establishing institutional controls limiting access to contaminated soil and groundwater, as well as working with local entities on St. Paul Island, DEC and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (ADNR) Water resources division. In 2006, ADNR created a “critical water management area” which prohibits drilling of any wells or use of the groundwater in these contaminated areas for any purpose without ADNR approval. Groundwater beneath Tract 46 is not currently used for drinking water; the City of St. Paul residents obtain their drinking water from a source two miles north of the city. Contaminated soil has been excavated, combined with monitored natural attenuationand long-term groundwater monitoring, continues at several sites and will be evaluated to demonstrate sustained reduction in contaminant levels.



A final site closeout of St. Paul Island has been submitted by NOAA, under terms of the Two-Party Agreement, for all the NOAA sites on the island. No further remedial action is expected or anticipated for these sites. The sites are either closed out with no restrictions or  have a “conditionally closed” status with institutional controls for residual contamination and long-term monitoring of contaminated groundwater. DEC met with NOAA and approved the request for closeout of sites on St. Paul Island June 4, 2008 agreeing no further remedial action is necessary.


Petroleum product is present underground in the residential and commercial areas of St. George. Removal of the free product from the ground has been ongoing since 2006. A technical obstacle to the process is the fractured bedrock, which makes locating the pockets of product and estimating its size difficult. A site closeout request for the St. George Island will be conducted by NOAA in fall 2008 since nearly every site will be closed out or  assigned a conditionally closed status with institutional controls and long-term monitoring phase.


Community involvement has been through public meetings and restoration advisory board meetings with DEC, NOAA, and the community. There will be one last Restoration Advisory Board meeting in the fall of 2008 for both islands.


View of the vehicle boneyard site

View of the vehicle boneyard site (TPA 02 STP Vehicle Boneyard Site) on St. Paul before cleanup occurred. (NOAA photo)


More Information

 NOAA Restoration Advisory Board webpage

 


Significant laws and documents


Contaminated Sites Database reports - There are a number of individual "contaminated sites" on these two Pribilof Islands. A smaller number of the more significant ones are listed in the table below. All sites on St. Paul and St. George are designated with a Two-Party Agreement (TPA) designation (i.e. TPA 01, TPA 02, TPA 03, etc.), and reports on the status of each are available on DEC's database: to view them all, go to our contaminated sites database search page and enter "TPA" into the site name field. We have a glossary available to help you with any acronyms used in the reports.

DEC Contaminated Sites Database Reports
St. George:

St. Paul


Links off DEC pages

NOAA's websitewith information on the Pribilof Islands Environmental Restoration for maps, photos, background information, org-chart, fact-sheets, documents, and other links


For complete copies of all federal administrative records associated with Pribilof Islands, please contact John Lindsay, DOC/NOAA/NOS/WASC, Haz. Mat. 7600 Sand Point Way N.E. Bldg. 4 BIN C15700 Seattle, WA 98115-0070. Project Manager. Telephone: 206-526-4819 fax: 206-526-4819.


DEC records, reports and correspondence on this project are available to the public for viewing at 555 Cordova Street, 2nd Floor, Anchorage, AK 99501.


Links to significant Public Laws which provide the mandate for site characterization and restoration activities on the Pribilofs:


Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development