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Court Plaza closed up to six months

Health risk gone, but smell from oil spill still strong at state facility

Posted: Sunday, December 24, 2000

Tenants of the state-owned Court Plaza office building will be relocated to alternate work sites for up to six months in the wake of a heating oil spill, the Department of Administration announced late Friday.

Approximately 200 gallons of heating oil spilled inside the core of the building last weekend after a faulty float valve failed to cut off the flow of fuel to a day tank located on the roof of the building.

The office building houses approximately 140 state workers and a few private tenants.

"For the comfort of the tenants and the convenience of the contractor in charge of renovation, the decision was made to vacate the building until all work is complete, with the exception of the Alaska State Employees Federal Credit Union," said Jim Duncan, the department's commissioner, in a news release.

"Space in the downtown area of Juneau has been identified for all tenants," Duncan said. "A plan has been developed to remove the contents of the Court Plaza building and have everything cleaned as necessary. We hope to have some people up and running in their new locations as early as the end of next week."

State employees have been operating out of temporary space, or on administrative leave, for the past week since the spill occurred. The credit union located on the ground floor, the least affected by the spill has since reopened for limited hours.

Cleanup efforts through Friday have eliminated any health hazard, but an irritating odor hasn't been eradicated, according to the Department of Administration. The state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, which managed the building until just weeks ago, will contract for completion of hazardous waste operations.

"The duration of the restoration work is difficult to estimate at this point but my guess is less than six months," said Bob Doll of the DOT&PF's Southeast Region. "We hope to have that hazardous waste and restoration contract in place in early January."

Through the end of the week, clean-up crews continued to drag out carpeting, gypsum wallboard and other materials fouled by the diesel spill.

A spokesman for Gov. Tony Knowles said the state might allow tenants into the state office building on Main Street on Tuesday to retrieve papers and other items, if inspectors say it is safe.

Brad Thompson, director of the state Risk Management Division, has said cleanup could take a long time if the fuel seeped into the foam insulation inside the walls. Thompson said some of the insulation was affected, but crews still are assessing the scope of the damage.

"There is some of that that will need removal to what extent we don't know yet because we're still opening up ceilings and access (panels) to those normally hidden areas," said Thompson, who added crews are working 12-hour days to clean up the mess.

He said the good news is the fuel did not affect the light fixtures and fire alarm systems.

Bill McAllister can be reached at billm@juneauempire.com. Kathy Dye can be reached at kdye@juneauempire.com.



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