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Air Force fined more than $200,000 for hazardous waste mismanagement on Western Aleutian island

The Cobra Dane radar at Eareckson Air Station, Shemya, Alaska.
Chief Petty Officer Brandon Rail
/
Alaskan NORAD Region, Alaskan Com.
The COBRA DANE radar at Eareckson Air Station on Shemya Island. The U.S. military began activities on Shemya during World War II. In the 1990s, the Air Force built a more modern station and has maintained a presence there since.

The United States Air Force has agreed to pay more than $200 thousand in fines for mismanaging hazardous waste on a distant island in the far Western Aleutians.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a June 23 statement that the Air Force stored hazardous waste without a permit at Eareckson Air Station, on Shemya Island.

Shemya is only about 500 miles from mainland Russia, and about 1,500 miles west of Anchorage.

The U.S. military began activities on Shemya during World War II. In the 1990s, the Air Force built a more modern station and has maintained a presence there since.

The EPA says the Air Force improperly stored tons of toxic waste fuel and oil; hazardous paints, hydrochloric acid, and other chemicals; as well as waste items like batteries and aerosol cans.

Ed Kowalski, a spokesperson for the EPA, said he’s “grateful that the Air Force has acknowledged its mistakes and stepped up to its responsibilities to fix the problem.”

The Air Force agreed to pay $206,811 in penalties, as well as to properly dispose of around 55,000 pounds of hazardous waste by the end of June 2022.

Theo Greenly reports from the Aleutians as a Report for America corps member. He got his start in public radio at KCRW in Santa Monica, California, and has produced radio stories and podcasts for stations around the country.
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