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Army Corps of Engineers to complete Unalaska Valley cleanup

Courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
The corps is finishing up the final two cleanup sites in the Unalaska Valley — one in the far back of the valley, the other up Ptarmigan Road in the Ski Bowl area.

The Army Corps of Engineers is cleaning up diesel-contaminated soil in Unalaska, nearing completion of the last remaining locations of their decades-long cleanup efforts in the Unalaska Valley.

They contracted with the recently-formed OC Environmental Services, an environmental firm owned and operated by Unalaska’s Native corporation, to conduct the field cleanup, and say the cleanup should be finished within the next few weeks.

When the U.S. military was in Unalaska during WWII, it used diesel for heating buildings. When troops left after the war, they buried the storage tanks underground, and the fuel leached into the soil.

The corps excavated many of the underground storage tanks in the 90s and 2000s, but that still left some unfinished cleanup — mainly they needed to test all the soil around where the tanks were buried to measure the contamination.

“[We] remove soils until screening indicates that the soils are clean,” said Rena Flint, who manages the cleanup for the corps. “Then backfill and restore the site.”

Dozens of sites have been remediated over the past few decades, leaving seven remaining.

And now, the corps is finishing up the final two — one in the far back of the valley, the other up Ptarmigan Road in the Ski Bowl area.

Flint said that while these are the final sites that need to be cleaned up in the residential area of the Unalaska Valley, there are still more locations around the island.

A group of community members chose the Unalaska Valley as the highest priority area during their ongoing meetings over the past two years. Next, the corps will turn to the second priorities from the list.

We next will be working on sites on Little South America and Summer Bay-Humpy Cove area,” Flint said.

Flint said she hopes to begin excavation work at those sites in summer 2024.

Community members are invited to attend a meeting in Unalaska on Wednesday, Aug. 2 to learn more about the local cleanup.

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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