A Seattle-based barge company has dropped a huge bag of PCB-contaminated soil into Dillingham’s Nushagak Bay. The incident happened on Nov. 4. A spokesperson for Alaska Logistics, the barge company that dropped the 11,000-pound bag, says it broke through a wooden platform at the Dillingham City Dock during a barge transfer.
Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation officials say the soil contains low levels of PCB’s, less than 50 parts per million, the cut off for barge transport. The dirt was being removed from an old Air Force radio relay station at Port Heiden. PCB’s, or Polychlorinated biphenyls are a class of man-made compounds that were used in electrical equipment such as transformers and capacitors during the mid-20th century. In large concentrations, they have been linked to cancer. Their use was banned by Congress in 1979. Removal of the bag from Dillingham’s harbor is being managed by the Coast Guard. Officials say a diver was sent down to explore removal, but they decided it was too dangerous to remove the bag until breakup. The dirt is reportedly contained in a special haz-mat bag. City of Dillingham officials say they are reviewing the incident and city protocol for transferring hazardous waste from one barge to another. They expect the barge company that dropped the bag to begin removal after break-up in late April.
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