Contaminated materials found at new Anchorage jail site

Posted: Friday, May 05, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Construction crews working at the site of the new $44 million jail near the city's downtown uncovered about 80 barrels of waste -- what appears to be paint, paint thinner, tar and asphalt.

Workers have placed the drums in lined containers and removed most of the contaminated soil in the area, about 600 cubic yards.

Decisions about what will be done with the barrels and the substances they contain will be made when a laboratory analysis is complete, said Lynne Bush, an environmental specialist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

None of the materials appear to be especially dangerous, but that won't be known for sure until the tests are completed, Bush said. Groundwater that collected in the pit will be pumped out, stored and treated.

''The purpose of that is hopefully to remove most of the contaminated product with the contaminated water,'' Bush said. ''Probably it's very localized right there.''

The site is next to the state's Cook Inlet Pre-Trial Facility at the edge of the Ship Creek industrial area. The city for decades used it to house a garage and maintenance facility for city vehicles. Most recently, it was used to store graders and snowplows.

Construction crews and environmental experts had expected to find contaminated soil because of the site's history and location in the industrial zone below downtown Anchorage.

Crews already had removed some underground fuel storage tanks and treated contaminated soil in those locations by what Bush called ''thermal remediation,'' which means burning it to remove petroleum residue and hydrocarbons.

Kurt Steinert, the city's project administrator, said workers had drilled test holes all over the site looking for other contaminants and hadn't found any. Then Tuesday, as crews were digging up an old storm drain, they hit barrels about six feet down, he said.

''We had expected we could run into something, and we did a lot of drilling to check,'' Steinert said. ''Sites in those areas tend to have that potential.''

Construction crews have been able to continue working on other parts of the site and hope by Tuesday to return to work in the area where the barrels were discovered, he said.

It's not yet known if the delay will set back the construction timetable. The jail is scheduled for completion in December of 2001.

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