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Cleanup of contaminated soil, debris underway at Cold War radio site near Petersburg

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PETERSBURG, Alaska — A federal contractor is removing soil contaminated by fuel and debris at a Cold War mountaintop radio site near Petersburg.

The Kupreanof Island site was a manned U.S. Air Force communications station, one of 18 built in Alaska in the 1950s that were part of an early warning system to relay radio communications to Colorado Springs during the Cold War. It was deactivated in 1976, and the Air Force removed more than 100 old fuel barrels from the area in 2000. But fuel drums, rubble, trash and chemical contaminants still remain.

An Air Force contractor has documented fuel, chemicals and heavy metals in the soil and groundwater, KFSK reported (http://bit.ly/1l8OGQ4 ).

Lori Roy, project manager with the Air Force, said the degree of contaminated soil was greater than expected. "So we want to ensure that we are cleaning up and getting everything, so we are doing all kinds of excavation and confirmation sampling to make sure that we come away clean and we've done our good job out there," she said.

The main contractor, environmental firm Bhate, is working on land managed by the U.S. Forest Service. The mountaintop is currently used for commercial communications by AT&T Alascom.

Roy said the contaminated soil is being removed by barge in "super sacks" — large polypropylene bags. She estimated about 1,000 super sacks would be filled with 785 cubic yards of soil that will be shipped to a landfill in Oregon.

The excavation sites will be refilled with clean soil, she said.

Heavy rains this summer have created some problems for excavation, she said, though she remains hopeful the project will be completed by the end of September. Soil sampling is expected to continue for several years after that.

While Roy did not have an estimate for the cost, a previous estimate put the price tag at $3.5 million, including cleanup, soil replacement and testing.


Information from: KFSK-FM, http://www.alaska.net/~kfsk/

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