Alaska Digest

staff and Wire reports

Posted: Friday, June 25, 2004

Superfund site cleaned up near Fairbanks

FAIRBANKS - A Superfund site near Fairbanks that was once used as a military dump has been cleaned up, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

It cost $23.5 million to clean up the Arctic Surplus site.

"The good news is the site is now cleaned up and no longer poses a threat to the community," said Neil Thompson of the EPA.

About a half dozen workers from various government agencies showed up Wednesday at a public meeting to talk about the cleanup.

"It's a good cleanup, long overdue," said Tamar Stephens, an environmental specialist with the Department of Environmental Conservation, who attended the meeting.

The Arctic Surplus property, 24.5 acres owned by two North Pole men, was declared an EPA Superfund site in 1989. It was used as a scrap and salvage yard, with most of the materials coming from the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office.

The site contained transformers containing oils with polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, lead battery casings, paints and solvents with hazardous chemicals. The EPA said the military was partly responsible for the contamination.

The EPA issued a clean-up strategy in 1995. The government spent $13.5 million on investigations and removal in 1996.

Marine census takes on deep Arctic

ANCHORAGE - An international team of scientists is delving into the icy depths of the Arctic Ocean to inventory aquatic life in the far north.

Researchers say a melting polar ice cap gives urgency to the project, part of a decade-long, $1 billion marine survey taking place around the world. The Census of Marine Life is launching the arctic study with a $600,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, researchers said Thursday.

"Increases in sea temperature are occurring globally with consequences that are hard to predict," said Ron O'Dor, chief scientist of the global census. "Accurate measures and predictions of species distribution, abundance and natural variation through time across a range of species are urgently needed to help policy-makers respond appropriately to the consequences of changes in the ocean."

The Arctic is the least-documented ocean on the planet, but past studies have yielded a surprisingly diverse collection of species. About 5,000 known multicellular species live in arctic waters, according to researchers.

Experts in biology, physics and geology from circumpolar and other nations will particularly focus on the Canada Basin, a little known ice-covered cavity more than two miles deep north of Alaska and the Yukon Territory.

APOC fines Anchorage Assemblyman Coffey

ANCHORAGE - The Alaska Public Offices Commission says Anchorage Assemblyman Dan Coffey broke state financial disclosure laws by failing to report his children's Permanent Fund dividend checks, his wife's status as a shareholder in two Alaska Native corporations and his position as an officer in a nonprofit corporation.

The commission fined Coffey $500, half the amount staff investigators recommended. He will also receive a letter admonishing him for the violations.

The commission did not agree with a staff finding that Coffey broke the law by failing to list the addresses of properties he has an interest in. That charge assistant APOC director Christina Ellingson characterized as the most serious.

Coffey said the decision was fine by him. He had acknowledged making mistakes in the three violations that stood, and contested the two that were dropped.

Financial disclosure, outlining property ownership and sources of income, is required of those holding public office.

Wildfires strand travelers in Chicken

ANCHORAGE - Wildfires forced officials to close a 90-mile stretch of the Taylor Highway on Thursday, stranding at least 150 people and dozens of RVs in Chicken.

The highway was closed on both sides of the old mining community, blocking residents, seasonal miners and travelers, fire officials said.

Three fires - fueled by hot dry weather and light winds - prompted the closure from the Tetlin Junction to about mile 90, a few miles from the Eagle turnoff.

The north flank of the 33,000-acre Chicken fire was about one mile south of Chicken, but that part was not kicking up, said Craig McCaa, a fire information officer in Tok about 70 miles to the southwest.

There are no land phone lines in Chicken, an unincorporated town of 21, so details were limited to occasional radio transmissions from fire crews.

"There's no information that the community is in danger at this time," McCaa said.

The Chicken fire was sparked June 15 by two lightning strikes.

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