Moose Creek residents raise concerns about contaminated soil incineration

FAIRBANKS, Alaska. (KTVF) A community meeting held Monday night brought residents, health advocates and stakeholders together to discuss concerns about remediation for contaminated soil. The soil is contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS, most commonly from firefighting foams.

Residents spoke at a community meeting held at Moose Creek Fire Station to discuss concerns about contaminated soil incineration. (Sara Tewksbury/KTVF)

There are many communities across the country and in Alaska struggling with the aftermath of firefighting foams contaminating ground water, including Moose Creek, Alaska.

Mark Sanford with Organic Incineration Technology in Moose Creek has been working with the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Environmental Protection Agency to test using incineration to burn PFAS out of the soil.

Now, there is question about where chemicals burned out of the soil go. Citizens for Clean Air, an advocacy group, held a community meeting at Moose Creek Fire Station to bring advocates, residents and stakeholders together to give residents a chance to ask questions.

Sanford explained what thermal remediation is: “It's a large kiln, big round cylinder. Dirt goes through it, we're putting fire in it, and then the air is pulling through it and going through air scrubbers and up the stack."

Pamela Miller, with Alaska Community Action on Toxins, has concerns about the incineration technique.

"I think you're really trying to do the right thing but I think there are questions that the public needs to ask, and I am concerned that of the hundreds of public records that we got through public records request, a lot of it is redacted," said Miller.

Sanford expressed to the group that they are trying to do everything right, because he lives in the contaminated area as well.

"These are my employees, these are my neighbors for 29 years, and these are my kids. I'm working here and have been doing it for 29 years. I'm not risking anybody’s life on something that I think may not be working but I'm thrown into this, because I'm in the middle of the contamination too," said Sanford.

Residents say they have many more questions, worried about what is still unknown and how it will affect their future.

The event was held at Moose Creek Fire Station, which is no longer manned due to contaminated water. Fire Chief Steve Crouch with the North Star Volunteer Fire Department says their fire service area is 112 square miles, so they have fire stations spread out across the area to get the quickest response to a fire in each area. Station 35 in Moose Creek is still operational but the water is not safe for drinking, showering or filling a fire truck. Due to the contaminated water, Crouch says there have not been firefighters manning the station for about 2 years. When they have to refill their firetruck out in the Moose Creek area they can do it either on Eielson Farm Road or on Eielson Air Force Base, which Crouch says is not contaminated.

Crouch says not having firefighters full time at Moose Creek has not made a large impact due to a low number of fires in the Moose Creek area. However, he says North Star Fire Dept. does have an agreement with the city of North Pole and Eielson Air Force Base, where they would all respond to a fire in the vicinity.

Crouch wants the community of Moose Creek to know that the fire station is not closed. “They’re still getting the same response they always had, their fire protection is there. Like I said, you have Eielson and North Pole coming, which is actually closer than we are to this area, so the residents have nothing to worry about. If they do have a fire or emergency, call 911 and we’ll be there,” said Crouch.

He says they do plan to staff the station again once they are able to get clean water from the City of North Pole.

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