Cleanup expenses exceed estimates

Scope of contamination at Marine Highway building broader than early tests showed

Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2002

Cleaning up contaminated soil at the site of a former state ferry building on Glacier Avenue has cost the city and school district $310,000 more than was projected.

Joe Buck, chief engineer for the city's architecture division, said the actual scope of the contamination at the site - primarily from diesel fuel - was far more than initial testing indicated.

"When we looked at the site originally, everybody knew there was a certain amount of contamination," he said. Initial testing indicated that about 230 tons of soil would have to be removed.

However, Buck said, "a lot of the contamination was under the concrete slab of the building, where we couldn't test."

By the time soil removal was completed following demolition of the building and its concrete slab, about 2,870 tons had been taken from the site. Buck said the soil was likely burned to remove the contaminating fuel.

The city took possession of the building from the Alaska Marine Highway System last September, and the building was demolished in November.

The site is slated to be used as a staging area during renovation of adjacent Juneau-Douglas High School. The work will begin at the end of this school year. After construction on the high school is completed, the Marine Highway site may be used as an outdoor recreation area.

Assembly member Ken Koelsch said the city hopes to secure state funds designated for environmental cleanup to offset the additional cost of removing the contaminated soil.

School Board Vice President Chuck Cohen, chair of the board's Facilities Committee, said if no state money is available the cost overrun can be absorbed in the high school renovation funding but at the potential expense of other renovation work.

"This $310,000 takes $310,000 out of the school renovation budget, which is already a tight budget to begin with," he said.

Andrew Krueger can be reached at

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