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Battelle Environment Matters

Battelle Environment Matters

Industry Insights
Researchers taking samples at a site in Alaska

Battelle Goes to Alaska for NAVFAC Contaminated Sites Studies and Support

Characterizing, monitoring and remediating contaminated sites is complex and challenging work. When the work has to be done in remote locations that are inaccessible for much of the year, the job gets that much harder. 

Battelle has risen to this challenge taking on work at three former U.S. Navy bases in Alaska. Battelle is leading work on a contract for the U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Northwest. The sites include the former Adak Naval Air Facility on Adak Island; the former Icy Cape Distant Early Warning Line Station, located on the northwestern coast of Alaska; and the former Cape of Prince Wales Naval Field Station in Wales, AK—the westernmost point of the mainland U.S. 

All three sites were decommissioned in the decades after the cold war. However, significant environmental remediation remains to be done on and around these former naval bases. Battelle has supported NAVFAC Northwest since 2007 in a variety of capacities, including field sampling, remedial investigations, human health and ecological risk assessment, independent quality assurance (QA) and evaluation of potential remedy options. 

Adak Island
On Adak, located near the tip of the Aleutian Island chain, Battelle has provided independent QA for munitions remediation efforts since 2007. The Adak base was originally established in 1943 in response to Japanese invasions on the Aleutian Islands of Kiska and Attu.  Afterwards, it became one of the Navy’s primary early warning sites during the Cold War. Training exercises during WWII and the Cold War left the base contaminated with hazardous munitions and petroleum byproducts. The Navy closed the facility in 1997 under the Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC) and began environmental cleanup under NAVFAC NW. Most of the land and facilities have since been transferred to The Aleut Corporation, but cleanup work continues to this day. Battelle provides oversight and technical expertise to ensure the quality of field sampling efforts and remediation activities. In 2016, Battelle completed a Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) Five-Year Review for the site. The team is currently working to update the Comprehensive Management Plan, which provides guidance for all institutional and engineering controls and long-term monitoring (LTM) activities. Moving forward, Battelle will be engaged in investigating petroleum contamination on the site. 

Icy Cape
Icy Cape, a former Distant Early Warning Line defense site, was decommissioned after the Cold War, leaving behind landfills, fuel tanks, and soil and water contaminated with PCBs, petroleum hydrocarbons and other chemicals. The Battelle team has been conducting fieldwork on the site since 2016. Battelle is currently in the final stages of the remedial investigation (RI), with the final RI report expected to be complete in 2018. As part of the RI, the team is performing human health and ecological risk assessments. A feasibility study will be prepared once the RI is complete that will look at various remedy options for the contaminants identified in the RI. 

Cape of Prince Wales
Cape of Prince Wales Naval Field Station was closed after the cold war and used as a weather station and arctic research lab through the 1970s. Preliminary remediation efforts began in the 1980s and 1990s. The site has since been turned over to the local Wales community, but concerns remain about contamination on the site. NAVFAC has contracted with Battelle to conduct a hazardous material/waste investigation to determine what kinds of contaminants remain in soil, groundwater and sediments on the site. Battelle will also be responsible for QA and development of an Environmental Protection Plan and Waste Management Plan for the site. The work will also include cost assessments of potential remedies for contamination around a former garage site. 

Performing this work in the far north presents unique logistical challenges for the Battelle field teams. The research windows are short due to weather conditions and other considerations such as endangered species migrations and hunting activities by indigenous people. There may be only a few short weeks each summer for collection of field samples at the sites. The locations are all remote with limited options for transportation in and out and few locally available supplies. That means everything the research team will need, from food supplies to clothing to research equipment, must be thoroughly identified in advance and flown in with the research teams. Teams are away from their families for extended times and may be working long hours with few modern conveniences. And then there are more unique risks, like polar bears and other wildlife.  

Over the years, Battelle researchers have put thousands of hours into fieldwork at the sites. Their work is helping NAVFAC move these sites forward through the next stage of remediation activities and towards eventual site closure. Battelle has received exceptional ratings for the quality of the work for each of the years we have worked with NAVFAC. The research teams have also established excellent relationships with the local communities around the sites, which have proven to be tremendously valuable.

Battelle brings a unique blend of competencies to the NAVFAC work. The teams working in Alaska have deep experience in conducting field sampling activities for a broad range of potential contaminants in soil, sediment, water and biological tissue. This field experience is backed by Battelle’s analytical laboratory capabilities and overall environmental science expertise. This allows us to offer comprehensive, end-to-end services for NAVFAC and other clients that span everything from field sample collection and risk analysis to remedy selection and site closure strategy.