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Posted: Monday, July 10, 2000

Railroad says no spilled fuel in river

ANCHORAGE -- Water samples taken last week from the Susitna River showed no sign of fuel contamination from a train derailment north of Talkeetna last December.

The results of the tests came only days after state environmental officials said a small amount of fuel showed up in a water sample taken June 30. Samples have been taken regularly since more than 120,000 gallons of jet fuel was spilled during the Dec. 22 derailment. Crews recovered 16,570 gallons, or about 14 percent of the total.

Ernie Piper, the Alaska Railroad's vice president for safety and environmental compliance, said he began questioning the results of the June 30 test when he saw a laboratory report breaking down the fuel components found in the samples. The chemical fingerprint didn't match the fingerprint for the fuel that spilled, Piper said. He speculated that the positive findings could have come from an organic material with fuel characteristics, such as peat.

Leslie Pearson, DEC's onsite coordinator, said she hadn't yet seen the results of the samples taken Wednesday. However, she said a trench dug last week to prevent any fuel from reaching the Susitna could simply be working as it's supposed to.

The Alaska Railroad, which has spent about $9 million so far on the cleanup, completed the 450-foot-long trench Thursday, Piper said. Plans also call for placing several hundred feet of boom in the water.

State rejects residency ballot challenge

KENAI -- The state Division of Elections has ruled Senate candidate Mike Szymanski of Anchorage can appear on the Aug. 22 primary election ballot, despite a challenge to his residency.

George Martin of Soldotna challenged Szymanski's candidacy last month, saying the Democrat was not an Alaska resident, nor a resident of District E, which includes Kenai, Nikiski and a portion of Anchorage.

But in a letter July 6, elections director Janet Kowalski cleared Szymanski to appear on the primary ballot, saying, ``... the preponderance of the evidence supports the eligibility of this candidate.'' Kowalski said she reviewed the state's election records and found Szymanski has voted in the state for at least the past 10 years.

In a letter challenging Szymanski, Martin claimed the former lawmaker lived in Seattle and was not an Alaska resident.

Szymanski served two terms in the Alaska House before representing South Anchorage and Nikiski in the state Senate for one term. He retired from the Legislature in 1990. Kenai was not a part of that Senate district at the time.

Szymanski said he has resided in District E since December 1998, making him eligible to run in that district.

``Except for cancer treatment, occasional business trips and a vacation, I have never been away from home for any extended period of time,'' Szymanski told Kowalski in a letter. Szymanski said he recently overcame a yearlong battle against colon cancer.

Pipeline `pig' snags piece of valve

ANCHORAGE -- A piece of a valve from the trans-Alaska oil pipeline has been carried down the pipeline by a ``pig'' sent through the line, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. said.

The pig, a device used to gather data from the inside the pipeline, arrived in Valdez on Friday morning carrying a large steel ring from a valve somewhere in the pipeline. Alyeska Pipeline employees were inspecting the pipeline to determine which valve lost the ring, said Alyeska spokesman Curtis Thomas.

The pig was put into the pipeline June 26 at Pump Station 4, about 18 miles north of Atigun Pass in the Brooks Range, to move south with the flow of oil. Workers discovered the ring when the pig was removed.

Between the pump station and Valdez, there are 38 check valves - valves designed to close automatically when oil flow stops or runs backward in the pipe, Thomas said. All the valves will be inspected for leaks or other damage, he said.

Alyeska officials say there is little immediate risk of a leak from the 800-mile pipeline, and the pipeline will not be shut down.

`Bookmobile' floats into fish camp

BETHEL - Classes may be suspended for the summer, but that doesn't mean learning has to end.

The Lower Kuskokwim School District is sponsoring what it calls the ``Kusko Book Express'' for the third consecutive year. It's something of a floating bookmobile, and visits fish camps up and down the Kuskokwim River.

``I realized that the kids weren't reading in the summer and they were losing too much time,'' said Lenora Arnold, the school district's migrant education specialist.

She earlier had given kids some books to read over the summer, but they weren't getting much use.

She pitched the idea of a summer book program that visits outlying fish camps. The school administration got behind it. ``We went out and visited the fish camps and took the books out there and would follow up,'' Arnold told the Delta Discovery.

The Kusko Book Express has spurred an interest in reading along with interest in the statewide Battle of the Books program, she said. ``At fish camp, they don't have TV and their days are real long. They get bored, and after the first few weeks, they chase us down the beaches for books.''

She says some of the kids at the fish camps have read all 12 books required in the Battle of the Books program.

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