Environmental Response Actions
In 1999 BLM was notified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that a contractor was to conduct a Preliminary Assessment/Site Inspection (PA/SI) of the KMS under EPA’s Superfund Technical Assessment and Response Team (START) Program. Correspondence from EPA and it’s contractor state that they had identified potential for mercury and other toxic metals contamination from the tailings, mill, and retorting operations. The correspondence identifies several areas of concern such as that there may have been a mercury retort facility at the “upper camp” and that tailings may be impacting wetlands, surface, or groundwater. In 2000 EPA notified BLM that the SI was cancelled because BLM had stated BLM would conduct the investigation under Department of Interior’s delegated Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liabilities Act (CERCLA) authority.
During 2000 BLM conducted site inspections and determined that immediate removal of hazardous materials was warranted. The BLM removed several drums of chemicals and under advisement from the US Army Alaska Explosives Ordnance Disposal Unit, burned-down a shed containing several cases of commercial-grade explosives. The BLM case file does not contain documentation that the main areas of potential contamination identified by the EPA were addressed in the inspections or removal.
During January 2006 BLM was contacted by the Native Village of Napaimute, concerning their perceived need for further cleanup of the site. Napaimute was concerned about drums at the site, mercury contamination, and other unspecified chemical hazards as well as the large volume of solid waste present there. On 18 August 2006 BLM conducted a joint inspection of the site with a representative from Napaimute and determined that a formal investigation was warranted. After consulting with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) BLM determined to follow CERCLA’s Non-Time Critical Removal Action process to determine what needed to be done at the KMS.
During 2007 BLM’s contractor conducted a Removal Site Inspection (RSI) of KMS. In 2008 BLM contracted to immediately remove about 4,000 lbs of high-mercury content materials from the site, and for conduct of an Environmental Engineering/Cost Analysis (EE/CA). The EE/CA characterizes the site and develops several alternates for response. Working in cooperation with the ADEC and stakeholders and after a public comment period the Removal Action has moved into the implementation phase. Field work to implement the selected removal action (EE/CA Alternative 4) began duirng 2013. BLM's contractor returned to the KMS in 2014 and 2015 to continue the removal action. Cleanup will continue until the site has achieved "Cleanup Complete" status.
As of January 2016, BLM has completed cleanup of the KMS with exception of the mercury retorting area at the former mine camp. Results of additional investigation of the retort area during 2015 indicate there may be 400-500 cubic yards of metals contaminated soil to be removed. BLM will continue removing contaminated soil from the retort area during 2016 and into future year field seasons as funds are made available. Upon completion of the removal action, the site will be available for conveyance with no land use restrictions attached.
Reports of the investigations and cleanup actions can be found on the Kolmakof Mine Site CERCLA Administrative Record page. Additional information may be found in the ADEC Contaminated Sites database, file number 2404.38.014; or USEPA CERCLIS, EPA ID# AKN001002949.