It's been nearly seven years since Ketchikan Pulp Co. closed its pulp mill and four years since it last hauled timber off the Tongass National Forest, and the cleanup of sites contaminated by the company's logging operations is nearly complete.
KPC has been working with the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Conservation to clean up about 25 sites, said Ken Vaughan, the Forest Service's deputy director of engineering.
The contamination "boils down to petroleum and broken batteries. It's mostly diesel spills, spills of oil from the shop area, or gasoline spills," Vaughan said. "These are sites that KPC used as part of their operations for the 50-year long-term timber sale contract."
The 50-year term would have ended in October 2004 had it reached completion. The pulp mill closed in March of 1997. Louisiana Pacific Corp., KPC's Portland, Ore.-based parent company, said the pulp mill had been losing money and needed up to $200 million in renovations.
Vaughan said there is still some work to be done at Naukati, which is on the west side of Prince of Wales Island. Crews are finishing up fuel-spill cleanups at Ratz Harbor and East Twelvemile, on the east side of the island.
The cleanup is estimated to cost KPC about $13 million, Vaughan said. The Forest Service's share of the bill has come to about $4 million.
David Dugan, spokesman for KPC's parent company, Louisiana Pacific Corp., said KPC has been working closely with the federal and state agencies.
"We are nearing the end of our activities surrounding the camp cleanups," Dugan said.
KPC signed the cleanup agreement with federal and state agencies in July of 1997.
The cleanup entailed digging out soil contaminated with petroleum and broken batteries, and shipping it to landfills in Washington and Ketchikan, said Anne Marie Palmieri, an environmental specialist with DEC and the project manager for the KPC cleanup.
Palmieri said the soil was excavated and stockpiled on one of the sites, and then allowed to bioremediate, or degrade naturally.
"There are microorganisms in the soil that will eat the petroleum hydrocarbon, and a lot of times the only thing those microorganisms need to eat more petroleum is oxygen. When you dig up the soil and aerate it, it encourages the growth of these microorganisms," Palmieri said.
Masha Herbst can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.