After receiving $150,000 last session for an environmental investigation in Nikiski, the Kenai Peninsula Borough is working to make sure its plan for the project falls under what the grant allows.
“(We’re) figuring out where the gaps of information are, so the public has some reasonable assurance that their water is safe to drink,” Borough Mayor Mike Navarre said. “And that we’re doing what we can to provide them with information about that.”
The investigation stems from resident concerns about water contamination from Arness Septage, a site that saw at least 4,200 gallons of oil waste and other pollutants in the early 1980s.
Last summer the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation issued a permit to AIMM Technologies Inc. to build a drilling waste monofill storage site to the southwest and adjoining the Arness Septage property.
AIMM installed six monitoring wells to satisfy the permit applications, according to DEC.
Phase one of the plan includes gathering all available well logs as well as surveying static water levels in existing wells. That data will then be used to determine the water table, the level below ground saturated with water, as well as various aquifers, bodies of saturated rock that can transmit water. From there the phases calls for geologic maps to be drawn and the groundwater flow directions to be determined.
“Trying to determine which way groundwater is flowing, which aquifer goes where so that if you have wells that test clean, which way the water’s moving and if there are wells that are contaminated, where it’s going to, so that part is just figuring out what’s happening,” Navarre said.
Along with a report summarizing the study’s findings, the borough will also make recommendations for the second phase of the investigation. Navarre said phase one will help to determine what the next steps will be and what the cost will be.
Joe Arness worked with his brother Jim Arness and DEC to come up with a plan to assess the site. They drilled a well last summer to about 125 feet and tested it.
It showed, 0.012 parts per million of trichlorethane, a cleaning solvent, the same level as a previously tested well. He said that’s about 1/20th of what’s considered safe in drinking water. Joe Arness said they drilled through the “worst spot,” so if there was serious contamination, that’s where it would be.
He said they considered drilling a third well to help determine groundwater flow direction.
“But the information from the first two wells … it didn’t really say anything and so I’m very skeptical that a third well would have told us anything different or anything new,” Arness said.
He said he is waiting to see how the borough’s plans proceed and its results before doing any further work, especially with a “low-level contamination” result from testing from last summer.
“I talked with several people about it and virtually everyone of them said, ‘There’s not much you can do about cleaning it up anyway,’” Arness said. “One hundred twenty feet down over time it will deteriorate, but it takes a long time when it’s underground like that.”
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.