Mining Ore Loading Operations, Hawk Inlet, Alaska


Alaska Press Release to Alaska Dispatch News: "Reissuance of Plans by Department of Environmental Conservation Pending for Marine Environmental Cleanup at Hawk Inlet Near Juneau" 3-21-17


According to Gretchen Pikul of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), in April or May her department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be reissuing a proposed marine water and sediment cleanup approach for a site located at Hawk Inlet near Juneau. In 1989, mining ore was spilled into the water and marine sediments at a dock location where a barge was being loaded. Some cleanup was completed in 1995 however contaminant levels or “total daily maximum daily loads” (TMDLs) for contaminants are still a concern as described in a draft document issued by the DEC and public comments were solicited last November.


Environmental Review, Inc. reviewed the document and provided comments to the DEC suggesting that problems associated with the data, approach and plans were so numerous that the document was technically unsound. Deficiencies included making generalized statements based on an inadequate number of samples, and a failure to describe or propose adequate sampling plans and procedures to collect sufficient data.


The environmental group identified technical issues which needed to be addressed including: sediment transport processes (e.g. erosion, transport, deposition, and that tidal variations are large, 25 feet), physical properties (e.g. grain size, bulk density, cohesiveness, and bioturbation), and a cleanup alternatives evaluation. The document suggested that contaminated sediments would be buried by “clean sediments” over time but failed to propose monitoring plans as can be found in the guidance documents which were cited in the references section.


Numerous descriptions of data exceeding water quality standards were presented in the document but plans for achieving reductions were absent. The environmental group identified several figures with contaminant data improperly plotted over time suggesting that the data was time dependent which appears to be misleading; removal of those figures from the document was requested.


Ben Wagner, Project Manager with Environmental Review, Inc. said: "Data collection that monitors the copper, mercury, lead, and zinc levels is inadequate here. The report showed that the pollutant source at Hawk Inlet is exceeding the screening levels for contaminants. In summary, the ecology is affected. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation should require additional testing, including testing of biological samples for improvement of the monitoring data set. An action plan which follows guidelines is needed for lowering pollution levels."


To see full version of comments by Environmental Review, Inc. go to