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Shemya Island, Alaska

by Civilian Exposure

Eareckson Air Station, formerly known as Shemya Air Force Base, is located on the island of Shemya, Alaska. The base was also referred to as “The Black Pearl” or “The Rock.” It is the most westerly of the 11th Air Force bases and is located approximately 1,500 miles from Anchorage near the tip of the Aleutian Island chain. Shemya Island is actually part of a National Wildlife Refuge – the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.

The facility has a total of 51 Installation Restoration Program (IRP) sites. Records of Decisions have been completed for 27 sites, and either have a No Further Action status or are being addressed under the Underground Storage Tank (UST) program. The remaining 24 IRP sites are in various stages of investigation, cleanup, monitoring, or Records of Decision. Hazardous and potentially hazardous substances used and stored at the facility include diesel fuel and gasoline, oil, antifreeze, solvents for servicing and cleaning equipment, pesticides, and electrical transformers containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The Air Force is the responsible party for cleaning up these sites following the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) standards for protecting people, animals, and the environment. DEC oversees the cleanup to assure it meets the State of Alaska standards. – DEC Alaska

The environmental concerns at Eareckson Air Station include:

  • fuel-contaminated soil and groundwater at several locations on the island such as the fuel handling facilities, former and current fuel storage areas, former fire training areas, former oil/water separator ponds, past drum storage and cleaning areas, and at various tank spills;
  • fuel-contaminated sediment and surface water at one site, a former fire training area;
  • chlorinated solvent-contaminated groundwater beneath a former drum storage area;
  • potential dioxin-contaminated soil at a former fire training area and a wood dump/burn area; and
  • potential impacts from dump sites, and ammunition disposal areas.

According to a 2010 USAF ROD/Assessment:

1.3 Assessment of Site | 1.3.1 Assessment Under CERCLA – Environmental investigations have demonstrated that trichloroethylene (TCE) concentrations in the groundwater at ERP Site OT048 to be above the ADEC cleanup level listed in State of Alaska regulations at 18 AAC 75.345 Table C – Groundwater Cleanup Levels. Based on results of environmental investigations, there is a CERCLA hazardous substance (42 USC 9601(14)) considered a Contaminant of Concern (COC) at ERP Site OT048.


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