Saturday, May 18, 2013
Major Environmental Mistakes Cost Anchorage Millions
Legal battles brew over who is responsible for spreading contamination at two Anchorage sites.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTVA-CBS 11 News) There is controversy over two contaminated Anchorage sites as legal battles brew over who is responsible for illegally spreading that contamination.
Regardless of where the responsibility lies, taxpayers are the ones who are going to have to pay.
"We know for sure that we have two major environmental cleanups," said Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan. According to early estimates, those cleanups are going to cost at least $2 million.
At Kincaid Park lead contamination from the old biathlon shooting range was spread and used for fill in other areas illegally.
"All that has to be remediated," explained Sullivan. "It was improperly done because that lead wasn't cleaned up first."
In Mountain View, contaminated soil from the Glenn Square Mall site was used as fill to smooth the slopes on an empty lot on Reeve Boulevard.
"PCB laden dirt was taken from Glenn Square and dumped over on Reeve Boulevard. It's a very active PCB site and that has to be cleaned up," said Sullivan.
They are two major environmental mistakes that are going to cost at least a million dollars each to correct but who is at fault is unclear.
"That's the million-dollar question as it were," said Anchorage Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler. "Because we certainly had in place what we thought were controls to make sure that soils that were going to be moved off the site were tested."
Now, it has become a legal blame game with lawsuits filed in both state and federal court. Each company or organization involved is pointing fingers at all the others.
"Our point of view is it's not us. It is one of them in the complaint. That's why we named all of them," explained Wheeler.
There is one company that was involved in both projects, the environmental consulting firm Shannon & Wilson, a regular contractor for the Municipality of Anchorage, testing, monitoring and developing cleanup plans for contaminated city sites.
According to a federal lawsuit filed by Roger Hickel Contracting, and answered by the Municipality, Kincaid Project Group Inc., and Land Design North, Shannon & Wilson failed to follow environmental laws, committed professional malpractice, and made intentional or grossly negligent misrepresentations about the Kincaid site in the company's communications with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.
Shannon & Wilson replied with an answer of its own denying the allegations. But, according to the Municipality lawsuit filed in Alaska Superior Court, Shannon & Wilson is strictly liable for all the damages for what happened at Glenn Square and Reeve Boulevard.
Yet, the company is still working for the Municipality; its contract was renewed within the last two months.
The CBS 11 Eye Team asked Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler why with all the allegations, Shannon & Wilson continues to work for Anchorage.
Gusty: "Do you see an issue with that? They did something wrong and we still have contracts with them."
Wheeler: "Well this is a complaint only. It's not a judgment at the end that says whether we were right or wrong."
Gusty: "But the complaint means you have suspicions."
Gusty: "Is there a possibility some of those contracts could be withdrawn based on those suspicions?"
Wheeler: "I don't know that we would pull contracts based on suspicion."
Other Municipality officials say even with concerns over what happened at the two sites, it is cheaper to keep Shannon & Wilson on clean up projects already in the works than to bring in a new firm.
Shannon & Wilson officials did not return calls for comment, but the company does deny any wrongdoing in its responses to the lawsuits.
The federal lawsuit over what happened at Kincaid Park is in the early stages and moving forward.
The lawsuit regarding Glenn Square and Reeve Boulevard has been put on hold as all sides come together to clean it up, but the Municipal Attorney's office said legal action will likely be pursued again in the near future.