Alaska Digest

Staff and Wire reports

Posted: Friday, April 22, 2005

City to remove oil tank from Second St.

JUNEAU - The city plans to remove a riveted steel oil tank that Arete Construction dug out Thursday from the Goldstein Building property on Second Street, city engineer Rorie Watt said.

The tank is more than 50 feet long and looks like a pipe. It was the Goldstein Building's active fuel tank for years and will be taken out of the ground as part of the city's ongoing construction on Second and Seward streets.

"We have an arrangement with the Goldstein owners," Watt said. "They bought a new tank that's going around the back, and the contractor is doing some work for the property owner. (The Goldstein owners) are coordinating work in and around their building with the project. Nobody wanted the old tank to stay in the ground and collapse at a future date."

Workers have to wear respirators around the tank, but the fuel is not considered extremely hazardous waste, Watt said. The fuel will likely be disposed of during the city's next hazardous waste collection day, he said.

"The heating oil is essentially the same as diesel fuel you put in a truck," Watt said. "What happens with oil tanks, over the years they build up sludge in the bottom of the tank, and the sludge has to go to a permitting waste site. Typically, what you do, you pour a lot of the fuel out, then you collect the sludge and put it in drums. That goes down south and burns at a permitted facility."

The tank, under the sidewalk on the south side of Second Street, was probably buried in the 1940s or 1950s, Watt said.

Rainbow Foods to celebrate its 25th

JUNEAU - Rainbow Foods, a natural foods market, will celebrate its 25th anniversary this weekend, Friday through Sunday.

The celebration begins this afternoon with free samples, door prizes and an organic T-shirt giveaway for purchases of $75 or more.

On Saturday, the market will have free chair massages from noon-3 p.m., live music and a Rainbow Foods cake with ice cream at 3 p.m. On Sunday, there will be a cheese tasting from 1-5 p.m. and a green tea tasting from 2-3 p.m.

Rainbow is located at 224 Fourth St., at the corner of Franklin Street. The store opened upstairs in the Alaska Steam Laundry building (the Emporium Mall) in April 1980.

Little Diomede Island whalers land bowhead

ANCHORAGE - Three men in an 18-foot aluminum boat harpooned and killed a 32-foot bowhead whale off Little Diomede Island, the first landed in the community since 1999.

It was an exciting night, said resident Edward Soolook. When he heard of the catch by Thomas Menadalook Jr. and his crew about midnight, "I just started running to houses saying, 'We need help! They got a whale!"'

By early Wednesday, most of Diomede's 140 residents had gathered under a nearly full moon on the ice shelf that surrounds the two-square-mile island, Soolook said. They pulled the estimated 16-ton whale ashore using ropes and muscle, butchered it and began hauling the catch to homes throughout town.

It felt good, Soolook said, especially after a Diomede man died three years ago while hunting larger, more dangerous gray whales. A harpooned whale rammed his boat and flipped the crew into the water.

For reasons ranging from the Cold War to human and whale population declines, it was only the second recorded bowhead landing in Diomede in almost 70 years. After World War II, the Soviet Union blocked Alaska Eskimo whalers from crossing the International Date Line, which runs between Little and Big Diomede islands, and entering Soviet territory.

Opinion recommends retirement plan hybrid

JUNEAU - The Legislature's second opinion on the state of Alaska's retirement system affirms a multibillion dollar funding shortfall, but disagrees with the proposed fix.

Joseph Esuchanko of Michigan-based Actuarial Service Co., which is performing the review, said Thursday that part of the Legislature's proposal might not work well for employees.

Esuchanko said the Legislature's plan to switch to a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan for new employees instead of the current defined benefit structure could make it harder for them to retire.

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, who supports the retirement system overhaul, called the review "absurd" and a waste of taxpayers' money.

Stedman crafted the proposal to create individual investment accounts for new employees and raise the amount workers currently pay into their retirement plans.

Employees who start working at a young age, make sufficient contributions to a defined contribution plan and make the right decisions on how much to take out during retirement would benefit, Esuchanko said.

"But to make all of those things come together is going to be very difficult," he said.

He recommended the Legislature consider a combination of the two pension plans.

House passes newborn hearing requirements

JUNEAU - The Alaska House on Thursday passed a measure to require hearing tests for newborns.

The bill by Rep. Jay Ramras, R-Fairbanks, would require a screening while the baby is still in the hospital. If the baby was born outside a hospital, the test would be done within 30 days.

Ramras earlier this session told the House Health, Education and Social Services Committee that impaired hearing affects about three out of every 1,000 babies. In Alaska, about 30 or 40 babies are born each year with some kind of hearing defect.

Ramras said great expense can be saved by catching hearing problems early, while children are in the most critical phase of development up to age 3.

Infants found to be at risk would be given follow up screenings. The Department of Health and Social Services would monitor those infants and prepare a yearly report on the program for the governor.

The cost of the increased screenings is estimated to be $32 million next year, rising each year to nearly $65 million dollars in 2011.

The bill passed 39-0.



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