Cleanup targets PCBs in Drury Gulch

Posted: Monday, March 31, 2003

KODIAK (AP) The four-acre swatch of land just west of the coast Guard Base is barely noticeable from the road, but for more than 30 years the Navy used it as a dumpsite for industrial and metal waste.

If you dug into Drury Gulch you'd find World War II car parts, twisted metal pipes, rusted appliances and other stuff discarded until 1972 when the Navy left the island.

Underneath a thin layer of dirt and vegetation linger coolants, lubricants and electrical equipment and PCBs.

PCBs, polychlorinated biphenyls, are probably carcinogenic to humans, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. From the 1930s to 1970s, manufacturers in the United States used them in products because of their insulation qualities and resistance to flammability.

In Drury Gulch, some debris was removed in the mid-1980s by the U.S. Army Engineer District, Alaska (USAED), which is cleaning up the site on behalf of the Department of Defense. But much of it still remains.

The PCBs, which cling to soil, were confirmed in site investigations in 1993, 1999, 2000, and again in 2002. The acceptable limit for PCBs in surface soil is 1 part per million (ppm). In deeper soil, 10 ppm is permitted.

Hot spots in Drury Gulch have turned up 500 ppm and 800 ppm. And in one instance, 100,000 ppm was found.

That's quite unusual to find something like that,'' said Jeff Brownlee, the environmental specialist in charge of the site with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

The higher-level concentrations, when discovered, were cleaned up.

The work to clean up all of Drury Gulch could cost anywhere from $4 million to $15 million.

USAED recommends removing the PCB concentrations above 10 ppm, allowing the acceptable levels for the deeper soils, then covering Drury Gulch with two feet of cleaned, carted-in soil.

There are no plans to remove the old World War II car parts and machines. Plants and grasses will be seeded, and it will be open to the public like the surrounding lands are, albeit with warning signs.

Brownlee said that after numerous studies, it looks like most of the contaminants are concentrated in the top two feet of fill. They are not with the debris, found as deep as 10 feet into the ground.

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