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Kotzebue Former Hospital-School Pipeline Release

Site Location

DEC Contaminated Sites contact: Erin Gleason, Project Manager, 907-269-7556

  • Click on photos or maps for larger versions.
  • Contacts updated: 5/2/2019
  • Summary updated: 5/2/2019

Site Narrative

October 6, 2020 Update

The 2020 field work is complete! Tanana Commercial Company completed groundwater sample collection on October 4. Surprisingly, they found diesel fuel floating on the top of the groundwater in monitoring well six (MW6). This is the well behind the school. In 2019, MW6 had contaminants in the groundwater, but not diesel fuel. Because of the diesel fuel, we were not able to take a groundwater sample. Tanana Commercial Company visited the landfarm on October 5.  KIC and Tanana Commercial Company worked together to make some improvements on the landfarm so that it is ready for winter and continued soil treatment. The next step will be to receive the sample data from the lab and draft a report this winter. Thank you to everyone involved during phase 2 of the summer 2020 field work. It was a big success!

Working Together

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) is working with a number of private, tribal, local, state, and federal partners to make progress on the Former Hospital-School Pipeline Release contaminated site. Together they make up the technical working group.

groundwater map of Kotzebue sound showing zoned lots and sample locations

Groundwater Map

Summer 2019 Summary

The Indian Health Service and Maniilaq Association funded the removal of an old underground storage tank from the Northside of the Ferguson building in August 2019. Tanana Commercial Company and Environmental Management Inc. excavated the tank and dug up 16 cubic yards of petroleum contaminated soil. Workers transported the soil to the Kikiktagruk Inupiat Corporation landfarm for treatment. During this effort, the Indian Health Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs funded groundwater sampling. Tanana Commercial Company collected samples from ten monitoring wells. Sample results found petroleum contamination in the groundwater at eight wells. ADEC provided guidance throughout this project and the Native Village of Kotzebue provided logistical support.To review the 2019 Underground Storage Tank Removal and Groundwater Monitoring Report see link at bottom of the page. After the results of the summer 2019 work, we know further groundwater sampling is needed in 2020 to establish a trend of contamination and to see how far groundwater contamination has spread. A second vapor intrusion study is needed at the June Nelson Elementary School, because different times of the season yield different vapor results. Vapor intrusion can happen when chemicals leak into the soil and groundwater. These chemicals can enter buildings through rising vapor. Certain chemicals can be harmful if breathed indoors, depending on the amount. We will also need to remove historic pipelines on the Former Hospital-School Pipeline Release contaminated site.

Summer 2020 Plans

Tanana Commercial Company was hired by Maniilaq Association and the Indian Health Service to collect additional soil and water samples during summer 2020. Based on the information in the December 2019 report, Tanana Commercial Company wrote a work plan for additional sampling at the site. ADEC reviewed the work plan and it was approved March 30, 2019. During summer 2020, soil samples will be collected on lot 3 and lot 5 (see map). Soil above human health cleanup levels will be removed. Groundwater samples will be collected from the ten existing groundwater monitoring wells. The work will take place in two phases, first a sample collection phase and second a soil excavation phase. Soil samples on lot 3 will be collected near the residential buildings to assist with Maniilaq’s future building demolition planning and along the western portion of lot 3 to determine the extent of the petroleum contamination. Soil samples will also be collected along the southeast portion of lot 5 and around the former Indian Health Service tank farm to determine the extent of petroleum contamination. Soil samples will be collected with a drill rig. Soil above human health cleanup levels will be excavated, stockpiled on site, and later transported to the Kikiktagruq Inupiat Corporation (KIC) landfarm on Base Road in Kotzebue. The excavation will be backfilled with clean material. KIC will operate the landfarm and treat both the summer 2019 and summer 2020 excavated soils. Free petroleum product was found in monitoring well one during summer 2019. This well will be checked again to determine if free petroleum product is still present. Monitoring well two through monitoring well ten will be sampled for petroleum contamination and the concentrations will be compared to the values measured in 2019. By taking groundwater samples two years in a row, we can determine if the groundwater contamination is changing.

Background and History

The Indian Health Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs operated a hospital and school in Kotzebue before Alaska was even a State. The hospital and school were heated by a system of tanks and above and underground pipelines that went throughout the school and hospital properties. During the 1960s there were reports of ruptures and leaks from the pipeline. The ruptures were reportedly repaired, but fuel still remained in the surrounding environment. Fuel seeped into the school (now elementary school) basement, ditches, and local wells. In 1985, the pipelines were abandoned in place. ADEC contracted Shannon and Wilson to conduct an environmental site assessment in 1989 to sample soil, water, the beach, and inventory all remaining tanks. During the 1990s there was a gap in activity at the site. In 2008, local Kotzebue residents noticed sheen on the ocean of Kotzebue Sound. As a result, ADEC contracted an environmental consultant to resample the contaminated soil, beach, and water. In 2015, the Indian Health Service collected soil and water samples across all four lots of the original school and hospital property. In winter 2018, the Northwest Arctic Borough sampled the air in the elementary school for any fuel vapors. In winter 2019, the technical working group did a desk top inventory of all known tanks and pipelines at the site.

landfarm construction

2019 landfarm construction

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