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Army Corps moves forward to clean up WWII contamination in Chernofski Harbor

Corps Contaminated Lands.jfif
Michael Yarborough
Cultural Resources Consultants
In 2019, the Corps focused on contaminant source removals, primarily old petroleum storage tanks. “The primary purpose of the work is to continue to remove some petroleum-contaminated soil at a number of locations where we already removed the storage tanks," said Andy Sorum, the project manager at the Chernofski Harbor FUDS. This will be the Corp’s third major cleanup in Chernofski Harbor in the last decade.

The Army Corps of Engineers is moving closer to dealing with a contaminated World War II-era military site long abandoned in the Aleutian Islands.

At a meeting Wednesday night in Unalaska, representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers said they would send a contractor to Chernofski Harbor in May. They aim to remove around 800 tons of soil and debris that was contaminated by diesel oil tanks during World War II.

The cleanup site covers more than 1,200 acres in Chernofski Harbor, on the southwestern edge of Unalaska Island. Chernofski village was inhabited for thousands of years, but people stopped living there in the early 20th century, and the navy operated a port there from 1942 to 1945.

Andy Sorum is the project manager directing the Army Corp’s cleanup efforts at Chernofski. He says they will ensure that any culturally and historically sensitive sites are protected.

“We will have archeological monitors on site while we are working. And if there are any significant finds, if there's any artifacts that are uncovered, we’ll be able to identify those, curate them properly,” Sorum said.

The harbor is only accessible by air or sea, and receives very few visitors. The area is home to a large sheep ranch, and only has one long-term resident, who sells sheep skins and mutton in the city of Unalaska, 50 miles away.

Sorum says the cleanup should not interfere with the working ranch and the livestock won’t be affected.

This is the Corp’s third major cleanup in Chernofski Harbor in the last decade. They have worked with the Qawalangin Tribe of Unalaska, as well as regional and village corporations, to remediate contaminated land on the island since the 1980s. The corps estimates this summer’s cleanup will cost about $3 million.

Sorum says there will be around 10 people working on the project, and that he expects the cleanup to take approximately five weeks.

The Army Corps says it's identified hundreds of former military sites in Alaska that are eligible to be remediated under its Formerly Used Defense Sites — or FUDS — program.

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