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Miller Salvage

Site Location

DEC Contaminated Sites contact: Robert Burgess, Project Manager, 907-451-2153 (Fairbanks)

  • Click on photos or maps for larger versions.
  • Contacts updated: 10/13/2017
  • Summary updated: 10/13/2017

Site Narrative

Site History and Background

The property, originally on a 22 acre parcel at 1485 30th Avenue in Fairbanks, operated as a salvage yard known as Miller Salvage as early as 1947, when the property was purchased by its previous owner who is now deceased. In 2004, the western half of the property (11 acres) was sold to Friends Community Church, who in conjunction with the seller removed some of the debris from their parcel in order to build their church building. The address of the eastern 11 acres became 1407 30th Avenue at that time. The currently operating Miller Salvage, Inc. is located on an adjacent parcel. The owners and operators of the original salvage yard accepted cars and car parts, vehicle batteries, building debris, scrap metal, transformers, drums and tanks of liquids including solvents, tar, fuels and oils, grease, and miscellaneous drums from construction companies and the military. The site was inspected by the EPA in 1986, with reports of the findings published in 1989-1991. The site was ranked on the national priorities list (NPL) but did not warrant further action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, & Liability Act (CERCLA or SuperFund) at the time. Since then, the site continued operating as a salvage operation until the early 2010s. The site has been subject to numerous complaints over the years in addition to multiple responses by local fire and police departments.

Recent Findings and Activities

In May 2017, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) received complaints of actively leaking drums on the properties. DEC responded to the complaints and observed several leaking drums, stained soil and distressed vegetation, and puddling of product on the eastern 11 acre parcel. DEC also observed several open-top drums containing products.

Open-top drums pointed out in 2017 complaints to department.

Leaking drums pointed out in 2017 complaints to department.

In July and August 2017, DEC returned to the Miller property for additional assessment, in conjunction with the Fairbanks North Star Borough (FNSB) Hazardous Materials team. In addition to leaking drums, DEC observed large piles of debris that included hazardous materials such as broken and leaking batteries, partially full gasoline containers, used oil filters, leaking railcars filled with asphalt, asbestos, gas cylinders, and broken ceramic insulators believed to originate from transformers.

Debris piles containing construction debris, car parts, batteries, tires, drums, and miscellaneous refuse.

Empty oil containers strewn about the property.

One of dozens of broken batteries at the site.

Compressed gas cylinders are among the hazards at the site.

Public Health and Environmental Concerns

In September 2017, the National Response Corporation (NRC) was contracted by DEC to begin cleanup of the Miller property. During cleanup, NRC identified actively leaking drums and drums at risk of imminent release (i.e. open top, dented, flaking, corrosion, damaged, or bulging). Field tests have indicated that the contents of the drums include chlorinated solvents, other types of hazardous solvents, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), grease, and oil. One of the open-top drums contained a deceased bird.

Additionally, two rail cars filled with asphalt tar exist on the property, one on the surface and one buried. In 2005, a cat and dog skeleton were observed in the asphalt tar leaking from the buried railcars. A neighbor stated that several animals have become trapped in the asphalt tar over the years. Currently the majority of the tar is buried, however the slow release is ongoing and may still present a hazard.

Public hazards on the property also include the dilapidated building structures. Buildings used for storage and shop activities currently contain hazardous materials such as mercury lamps, burned batteries, hypodermic needles, used oil, and other debris. DEC observed evidence of transients and drug users using the buildings for temporary shelter, and neighbors report the shop buildings once housed an illegal drug lab.

Results from PCB field screening for oily liquids in one of the drums stored on the property.

Deceased bird in open-top drum.

Dog bones observed in tar leaking from rail car in 2005.

Interior of the shop building.

Shop building and burned shack; the downed fence is likely where transients were accessing the site.

Hypodermic needle found near shop building.

Cleanup Actions, Current Status, and Plans

NRC mobilized to the site on August 30, 2017 and immediately began installing fencing and warning signs to help deter transients and other trespassers from accessing the site. Following fencing of the 11-acre Miller property, NRC overpacked leaking drums and containers and sorted through the large piles of debris. Hazardous materials from the debris piles were moved to a secondary containment area to later be transported for disposal. NRC will consolidate waste and remove it from the site in addition to excavating soil contamination hotspots to reduce risk of exposure.

DEC’s contractors placing a leaking drum into a sound overpack drum.

Drums, batteries, and contaminated materials temporarily stored in containment area set up by DEC’s contractors.

Totes being used to consolidate petroleum, oil, and lubricants (left) and antifreeze (right).

DEC has contracted Shannon & Wilson, Inc. to perform long-term site characterization and cleanup activities. Shannon & Wilson will sample groundwater and soil to determine the nature and extent of contamination. Additional mitigation and cleanup measures will be employed following site characterization efforts.