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Eielson Air Force Base

Site Location
DEC Contaminated Sites contact:
Dennis Shepard, Project Manager
CSP, SPAR, ADEC
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
Office of Environmental Cleanup
1200 6th Avenue, Suite 900 MS ECL-122, Seattle, WA 98101
206-553-5502
  • Click on photos or maps for larger versions.
  • Contacts updated: 8/22/2018
  • Summary updated: 4/18/2019

Description

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 Federal Facilities Agreement (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, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as trichloroethylene (TCE), benzene, tetrachloroethylene (PCE), and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Used oils, solvents, fuels, and PFAS-containing substances such as various fire suppression foams have been discharged onto the ground, into surface water, or into the soil. PFAS compounds have been identified in Garrison Slough, Polaris Lake, and in the groundwater. PFAS contamination in groundwater extends off of Eielson Air Force Base and into the community of Moose Creek. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and pesticides have been identified in soils and sediments at Garrison Slough as well.

People may be exposed to these pollutants through contact with the skin, accidental ingestion of contaminated soil or water, or via fish consumed from contaminated waterbodies.

Current Status

In the 1995 Record of Decision (ROD), 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. As of the 2013 Five Year Review, it was determined that a number of sites had been not been adequately characterized or mitigated, though RODs were in place. Subsequently, sites without adequate characterization or mitigation were reopened for additional characterization and evaluation of the remedy in place.

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 a physical fish gate restricts the passage of fish into and out of the PCB contaminated area. A risk assessment is planned for 2019 to determine the extent of contamination from pesticides, PCBs, PFAS compounds, and other contaminants for overall impacts to Garrison Slough.

In the spring of 2015, sampling of drinking water supply wells at Eielson Air Force Base revealed the presence of the chemicals perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) at levels exceeding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) then-termed Provisional Health Advisory (PHA) level, now the EPA’s Lifetime Health Advisory (LHA) for PFOS and PFOA. PFAS compounds are emerging contaminants, or chemicals with limited data on human health effects. It is an ingredient found in many waterproofing products, nonstick compounds, and various fire-fighting foams. Contamination from PFAS likely originates from historical fire-fighting foam use at Eielson AFB, from 1970 to 2000, roughly. Mitigation efforts to date include installing granular activated carbon (GAC) filtration for Eielson AFB’s drinking water wells as well on many homes in the Moose Creek Community who consented to have such systems installed. Homes in Moose Creek not on a GAC treatment system receive an alternate water supply either via bottled water or water delivery to a holding tank. As of April 2019, the United States Air Force (USAF) has prepared a draft Interim-ROD for Moose Creek that, when finalized, will provide a plan for providing a piped water system to the community of Moose Creek.

The USAF released aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) into Polaris Lake on August 11, 2016. Subsequent to the AFFF release, the USAF conducted sampling for PFOA and PFOS in the surface water and soil at Polaris Lake on August 29, 2016. The maximum concentrations found in Polaris Lake at that time were 19.0 parts per trillion (ppt) PFOA and 249 ppt PFOS. Soil surrounding Polaris Lake was also sampled for PFOA and PFOS, and did not have a detection.

On April 3, 2019, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) issued an emergency order closing sport fishing in Polaris Lake. To view this emergency order, see ADF&G Sport Fishing Closure of Kimberly and Polaris Lakes in the North Pole and Eielson Areas.

State and federal regulatory agencies are aware of this situation and working with the USAF to ensure human health and environmental protections and to make sure the contamination and any mitigating factors are addressed.

Most sites at Eielson AFB are still in the sitewide monitoring program to ensure contaminant plumes are stable or decreasing. Several sites are still being treated by active remediation systems. Institutional controls, such as restriction of groundwater use in certain areas, treatment systems on drinking water wells, fishing advisories, and a dig permitting process for construction activities, are in place at Eielson AFB to prevent exposure to remaining contamination.

Contaminated Sites Database reports

There are a number of individual contaminated sites on the base, 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