The Army Corps of Engineers has proposed a plan to clean up lead-contaminated land in Swampy Acres. The area is owned by Natives of Kodiak Inc., which plans to develop the site for residential use. 

Cleanup efforts began in 1996 after two battery boxes were found in an unnamed creek just northeast of Lake Catherine and about 4 miles southwest of the city of Kodiak. 

The site was part of the former Fort Greely Army Garrison used by the military from 1939 to 1975 and contaminated during this time. Batteries were improperly discarded and dumped from a warehouse downslope across the site, leaching lead into the soil, sediment and groundwater. 

Lead is a known carcinogen, and can remain in the soil for long periods of time because it does not biodegrade or decay, nor is it rapidly absorbed by plants. Exposure to lead can cause lead poisoning, which has been linked to adverse effects primarily related to the central nervous system. 

Although the area is not currently in use, Natives of Kodiak said it plans to develop the land for residential purposes. The Alaska Native Urban Corporation owns about 740 acres of land that stretches from Dead Man’s Curve on Rezanof Drive to the Coast Guard Base.

To mitigate health risks posed by lead poisoning, the Corps has proposed to excavate and dispose of the contaminated soil offsite. 

The Swampy Acres Lead Battery Site is part of the Formerly Used Defense Sites Program, a federal program that aims to clean up environmental contamination at properties formerly owned, leased, possessed or used by the U.S. military.

“It is the USACE’s current judgment that the preferred alternative identified in this proposed plan will protect human health and the environment from actual or threatened releases of a hazardous substance into the environment,” the Corps said in its Swampy Acres Lead battery Site Proposed Plan. 

The plan released by the Corps is open for public comment until Jan. 30. It outlines cleanup criteria, previous removal actions, and potential remedial solutions and alternatives.

The plan proposes to remove contaminated soil and sediment located in and along a creek that  flows through the site. While the creek is not listed as having anadromous fish, it empties into Lake Catherine, which is listed as an anadromous fish-bearing body of water. 

Lead battery casings and debris were previously removed from three locations in the area, but soil and sediment with lead measured above the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s cleanup level of 400 mg/kg. 

The Corps collected soil and sediment samples during various years from 1997 to 2016 in places where battery cases were recovered, as well as upstream and downstream from those locations. 

According to the proposed plan, lead levels that exceed the federal contamination limit in soil were present along the stream bank, as well as farther into the creek and upstream near a culvert. 

Soil contamination measured 2,780 mg/kg and sediment contamination reached 4,840 mg/kg. However, groundwater contamination has fluctuated above and below ADEC’s cleanup levels over the years, but measured below the cleanup level for lead in samples collected in 2016. 

The Corps identified contamination in 634 cubic yards of contaminated soil covering 160 square feet feet, and 34 cubic yards of contaminated sediment covering an area of 323 square feet along the creek. 

The contamination may extend to the northeast along the stream where samples have not been collected. 

Groundwater has only exceeded the ADEC cleanup level for lead in 2005. In following years, the groundwater sampled measured below the cleanup level.  

The proposed cleanup plan will involve temporary stream diversion and excavation of contaminated soils and sediments with concentrations above ADEC’s contamination cap. 

The Corps estimates that 78 tons of contaminated material will be collected. Once excavated, the areas would be backfilled with clean material and graded, and the banks of the stream would be hydroseeded with native plant seed mix. 

Joshua Barsis, a remedial project manager with the Corps, said this is just one of 66 other FUDS projects that will be looked at in years to come. 

“There is still a lot more investigation that needs to be done in the 65 sites,” he said, noting that many will need removal actions, additional investigation and groundwater monitoring, among other actions. 

The Corps will hold a virtual meeting on Jan. 21 at 5 p.m. to answer questions the public may have about the cleanup plan. 

The meeting link and proposed plan document can be accessed online at visualmedia.jacobs.com/KodiakLBS. A copy of the proposed plan is also available at the Kodiak Public Library. 

The Corps will accept written, email and voicemail comments during the public comment period, as well as verbal comments provided at the public meeting. 

The public can send questions or comments to Joshua Barsis at Joshua.Barsis@usace.army.mil or via telephone at 907-753-5680. 

After receiving public comments from community members, the Corps will prepare a decision document describing the selected form of remedy. 

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