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Outlining Exposure Issues from Site Visit (July 2003)



The purpose of this document is to convey issues that the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR) identified as requiring evaluation in the public health assessment (PHA) for Galena Airport on other nearby defense sites. Between July 7 and July 11, 2003, ATSDR conducted a site visit to Galena, Alaska. The purpose of the visit was to begin collecting information necessary for conducting a PHA and to determine if immediate public health actions were needed. To identify any potential public health concerns, we reviewed available site-specific information and visually inspected the current designated waste sites or other areas where hazardous substances have been released to the environment. Additionally, ATSDR staff met with U.S. Air Force (USAF) environmental personnel, and representatives of federal, state, and local agencies. As a result of these meetings and a preliminary survey of the data currently available, we identified several issues that we will be investigating further for the PHA. In addition, community concerns were identified and will also be addressed in the PHA.

These issues and community concerns were presented in general to representatives of the USAF and to Louden Tribal officials and staff by ATSDR during an out briefing or in general discussions during the site visit and in subsequent communications. More detail is provided in the Discussion section of this report. ATSDR will respond to the environmental and community concern issues identified below, either in the PHA or through an ATSDR health education and promotion efforts coordinated with local resources.

Environmental Issues:

  1. Is water supplied by wells at the Galena Airport, the Galena City wells, or by private wells safe to drink? Specifically;
  2. - Are fuels, solvents or other contaminants present in the drinking water at levels that are harmful? Has the water supplied by those wells been safe in the past and is it likely to be safe in the future?
    -Does the TCE plume on the Galena Airport endanger the Galena Airport water supply system?
    -Do releases at the Fire Training Area or the southeast runway fuel spill represent a health threat to the safety of private water wells in Old Town?

  3. Does the indoor air at the Galena Aviation Vocational Technical Center (GAVTC) pose a health threat?
  4. -Given the current use of the facility, are indoor air levels within OSHA standards?

  5. Are petroleum, oil, and lubricants (POL) releases from Million Gallon Hill (MGH) potentially resulting in human exposures to contaminants at a harmful level?
  6. -Are the releases from MGH fully characterized and does the MGH source interrelate with the SW (Old) landfill?

Community Concerns:

  1. Has the previous use of pesticides along roadways and other locations subject to chemical control resulted in harmful levels of human exposure to those substances?

  2. Do the benefits derived from use of traditional subsistence foods outweigh the potential adverse health effects from environmental contamination of those food sources?
  3. -Have releases of contaminants from the former Galena Air Station, the Campion Air Station, or the Kalakaket Creek White Alice System Station resulted in contamination of the components of the traditional, subsistence food chain components?
    -Do the 55 gallon barrels or drums of partially full or full barrels of POL or other substances in the Old Town Galena area and downriver spread by the 1944 and 1945 Yukon River floods pose a direct health threat to humans or indirectly through the food chain?
    -Does roadway dust, potentially contaminated with (pesticides, herbicides, or POL) adversely affect the collection of traditional subsistence food such as berries and other vegetation near roadways?

  4. Is the incidence of cancer elevated in the Galena population?
  5. -Has the release of contaminants from the Galena, Campion, or Kalakaket sites potential resulted in the observed incidence of cancer in the community or are other factors to be considered?


In 2002, the Louden Tribal Council asked (that is, petitioned) the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to determine whether the Air Force operations on the previous Galena Air Station, Campion Air Station, or Kalakaket Creek White Alice System Station exposed residents to unhealthy levels of environmental contaminants. This public health consultation and the public health assessment (PHA) that will follow are prepared in response to this petition.


The former Galena Air Station (GAS), now known as the Galena Airport, and the adjacent Village of Galena, Alaska (AK) are located in west-central Alaska along the Yukon River (64° 44' N Latitude, 157° 53' West Longitude). Galena is about 340 air miles northwest of Anchorage about 270 air miles west of Fairbanks, and 45 miles east of Nulato. The community of Galena is located on the north bank of the Yukon River in an area known as the Koyukuk Flats region: extensive lowlands covering about 4,000 square miles at the confluence of the Yukon and Koyukuk Rivers.

The former Campion Air Station (CAS) is also located on the north bank of the Yukon approximately six miles east-southeast of the Galena Airport. The site facilities, now removed, were situated on a river terrace at above the general level of the Yukon floodplain.

The former Kalakaket Creek White Alice System (KCWAS) site is located about 22 miles south of Galena, across the Yukon River. The site is accessed by air with a 4090 ft. gravel landing strip which is connected to the site by a one mile gravel road. The station facilities are located on a fairly level mountaintop at elevation of about 1,950 feet. Kalakaket Creek is a north-flowing creek about 2 miles west of the site. Kalakaket Creek drains to Kala Creek which is tributary to the Yukon.


The Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA) began construction of an air field at Galena in late 1941 as a part of a larger civilian airport construction program throughout Alaska. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the U.S. Army expanded its build up of facilities in AK to support the military campaign in the Aleutians and support for the Lend-Lease shipments to the Soviet Union. In June 1942, the U.S. Army established a post at Galena and began construction of new facilities to support military operations at the airport. The facilities were officially transferred from the CAA to the U.S. Army in July 1943 (USAF 2000).

From 1942 - 1945 the Galena Air Station (GAS) served as an auxiliary airfield for refueling and maintenance of many aircraft en route to Nome and then on to the Soviet Union. During 1943-1945 the Army constructed numerous facilities at the GAS including the large Birchwood hanger adjacent to the runway. In 1944 GAS was flooded by the Yukon River and many of the site facilities were damaged. As a result, an earthen dike was constructed around the GAS in 1944 but, on May 24, 1945 GAS was again flooded and many facilities destroyed or damaged (USAF 2000).

GAS was declared surplus following the end of World Was II and was transferred back to the CAA in December 1945. No sooner was the threat in the Japanese theater ended than the threat from the Soviet Union emerged and the Cold War began. The U.S. Air Force began the development of a variety of defensive facilities throughout Alaska which, early in 1951 included an agreement with the CAA for joint civilian-military use of the Galena airport. The northernmost forward operating base was established at GAS for fighter-interceptors to meet the threat of Soviet bombers and fighter aircraft. During the 1950s thru the 1989 several additional facilities, including a Combat Alert Cell Hanger, barracks, and a headquarters building were construction to support the fighter-interceptor mission of the installation (USAF 2000).

During this Cold War period, in compliance with the Alaska Statehood Act of 1958, the airport was transferred from the CAA to the state of Alaska in 1966. However, the U.S. Air Force retained control of the land on which the airport facilities were constructed. GAS continued to operate as a forward operating base until 1993 when GAS was placed in caretaker status and returned to primarily civilian uses (USAF 2000; ADCED 2003).

Campion Air Station (CAS) was constructed in 1951-1952 and became operational in April 1952. CAS served as a long-range, ground-control, intercept, radar station: part of the Aircraft Control and Warning System (AC&WS; DoD 1998). The station was active from 1951 to 1984 and was deactivated in October, 1984 (USAF 2003). CAS was replaced by a minimally attended, long-range radar facility at the Galena Airport (DoD 1998).

The Kalakaket Creek White Alice System (KCWAS) site was constructed in 1957 as one of 33 original WACS sites (CH2M HILL 1993). The former Station includes a composite building which contains a dormitories, office and storage space, and equipment for a standby power generator; four 'billboard' antennas and feed horns (White Alice arrays); two microwave antennas; storage and distribution facilities for POL; an equipment-maintenance building; a temporary garage; a water well; and an airstrip (CH2M HILL 1993).

The development and implementation of satellite communications in the late 1960's made the WACS obsolete and the KCWAS site was deactivated in 1973.

Waste Generating Activities

A number of chemicals, primarily fuels and solvents, are required to operate and maintain military aircraft once stationed at the former Galena Air Station. Currently, use and disposal of these chemicals are strictly regulated to prevent releases to the environment. The USAF, however, has identified past practices or events that may have or did result in releases of contaminants to the environment. These practices included:

  1. Use of underground and above ground storage tanks (USTs and ASTs), drums, and pipelines to store and transport fuels and liquid chemicals. Large amounts of petroleum, oils, and lubricants (POLs) have been used to support aircraft operations and maintenance. Leaks and unintentional spills of POLs, as well as intentional releases for uses such as dust control have occurred. Spring flooding of the Yukon was also responsible for scattering drums and presumably the release of POLs.

  2. Use of cleaning agents (solvents and corrosives) and coating-related materials (paints, thinners, and strippers) in aircraft operation and maintenance. Until the 1970s, when more stringent disposal controls were implemented, these chemicals may have been disposed of by pouring directly onto the ground or into dry wells.

  3. Disposal of wastes in landfills. Domestic garbage, industrial wastes, construction materials, and hazardous materials were commonly placed in landfills for disposal.

  4. Fire training using fuels and flammable liquids. The USAF released fuels and other flammable liquids to practice firefighting techniques. Materials were released to the ground and ignited.


Environmental Issues

  1. Is water supplied by wells at the Galena Airport, the Galena City wells, or by private wells safe to drink?
  2. In preparing the PHA, ATSDR will work with the Louden Tribe, the USAF, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, and the community to gather additional information about the drinking water supply systems, the nature and extent of groundwater contamination, and measures to prevent or mitigate contamination of the drinking water supply.

    ATSDR will focus on data that characterizes the actual contaminant levels measured in drinking water sources: the point of potential human exposure.

  3. Does the indoor air at the Galena Aviation Vocational Technical Center (GAVTC) pose a health threat?
  4. The indoor and outdoor air monitoring data, recently collected by the USAF, together with the potential exposure duration information compiled for instructors, students and other users of the classroom facility should be sufficient for ATSDR to determine if a potential inhalation exposure health threat is posed.

  5. Are petroleum, oil, and lubricants (POL) releases from Million Gallon Hill (MGH) potentially resulting in human exposures to contaminants at a harmful level?
  6. The USAF has compiled extensive data on MGH contaminants and their distribution. Those data, summarized in sources such as the Remedial Investigation Report (1996) and the Environmental Monitoring Report #7 (2002), will be used by ATSDR to evaluate the public health implications of this site.

Community Concerns

  1. Has the previous use of pesticides along roadways and other locations subject to chemical control resulted in harmful levels of human exposure to those substances?
  2. The pesticide information recorded in the Remedial Investigation Report (1996) has been reviewed and will be considered together with any additional information that ATSDR can gather from the USAF and other sources such as the Louden Tribe or state and federal wildlife officials. Concern was expressed that dust from area roads may be contaminated with pesticides. Thus, the concern is that the dust may result in contamination of garden plots near roadways, berries and other subsistence foods gathered near roads, or possibly result in an inhalation exposure to the pesticides.

  3. Do the benefits derived from use of traditional subsistence foods outweigh the potential adverse health effects from environmental contamination of those food sources?
  4. ATSDR will gather additional information on the traditional subsistence foods used and the areas collection areas for those foods. Numerous published sources of information are available that describe the foods used, the areas used for collection or harvest, and the quantities typically consumed during the year.

    ATSDR will compare the food usage information compiled with the apparent limited amount of analytical data available on contamination of various components of the food chain. Information will be gathered from sources such as the Louden Tribe, the Tanana Chiefs Conference, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, or the US Geological Survey.

    These data may be sufficient to give an overview of the regional quality of the food chain components. Site-specific evaluation may not be possible, given the amount of available data and the large and widespread areas utilized for subsistence food collection. However, if the data do indicate a site-specific or species-specific contaminant burden, that information will be compared to the patterns and composition of the overall subsistence foods practices of residents of the Galena area.

  5. Is the incidence of cancer elevated in the Galena population?
  6. ATSDR will evaluate the available cancer data for this area. In areas of the low population density, cancer data is usually very difficult to evaluate. Numerous factors contribute to the observed incidence of cancer in a community. ATSDR health educators will work with the Galena community and with other sources of assistance and information such as local health professionals, the Tanana Chiefs Conference and others.

    ATSDR may utilize a variety of means such as small meetings or availability sessions and the distribution of information flyers or other materials to assist the community with this issue.


ATSDR did not identify issues that posed an imminent public health threat, but did identify several waste disposal issues and community concerns which will be addressed in detail in the PHA. In order to fully address these issues and concerns, ATSDR will coordinate with the USAF, ADEC, other state and federal agencies, Alaska native health organizations, and the community to gather additional information.

ATSDR plans the following actions:

Preparation of a PHA

The types and sources of information ATSDR will gather to evaluate potential exposures and address concerns was previously discussed in the Discussion section of this public health consultation. ATSDR will evaluate the data and information compiled and will prepare a PHA that summarizes the public health evaluation of the identified issues and concerns. That PHA will be circulated as a public comment release to the petitioner, interested members of the Galena community, the USAF, ADEC, and other that have assisted in the preparation of the PHA by supplying data or information.

Comments received during the comment period will be considered and addressed by ATSDR in a Response section made part of the final PHA. The final PHA will be distributed to those that received the public comment release PHA and others that identified themselves during the comment period.

Public Health Education Activities

ATSDR will, in coordination with local health professionals, state health officials, and Alaska native health organizations, provide information to the Galena community about cancer and other community health concerns that may be identified in the future. ATSDR is planning a follow-up health education visit to the Galena community during autumn 2003. The specific details of this visit and other possible future visits will be coordinated with the Louden Tribal Council.


ATSDR is working with the Louden Tribe and the USAF to identify any remaining concerns. Because of the excellent cooperation received thus far and the fact that much of the relevant information has now been obtained, it appears that a detailed evaluation of most of the issues and concerns will be possible. USAF is currently involved in collection of a great deal of additional information. ATSDR believes that community involvement is invaluable and would appreciate community assistance. RAB members and other members of the community can assist by identifying community health concerns. Tribal members have also assisted by identifying stakeholders that may have additional information about Galena Airport and its history.

ATSDR participated via telephone in a Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) meeting in January 2003. Initial collection of community concerns was conducted during this telephone conference.

An informal public availability session was held during the four days that the team visited Galena. Members of the team were available at the Louden Tribal offices for members of the tribe and other members of the community to talk with during the four days. Members of the team also visited local gathering places to talk informally with members of the community. Tribe and community members, RAB members and others may contact ATSDR with questions, comments, or additional information, either by telephone or e-mail. Please leave a message referring to "Galena Airport," your name, and a return phone number or e-mail address. ATSDR contact information for Galena Airport is as follows:

  • ATSDR's toll-free number 1-888-42 ATSDR (1-888-422-8737) extension 0373.

  • Direct line to the ATSDR health assessor, Jeff Kellam, 1-404-498-0373.

  • E-mail to the ATSDR health assessor, Jeff Kellam,


Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development (ADCED). 2003. Galena. Alaska Community Data Base - Detailed Community Overview.

CH2M HILL. 1993. Preliminary Assessment, Kalakaket Creek., Draft. Prepared for U.S. Army Engineer District, Alaska. September 1993.

Department of Defense (DoD). 1998. Village of Galena Site Assessment Report, Draft. Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Environmental Security), Department of Defense. March 31, 1998.

U.S. Air Force (USAF). 1996. Final Remedial Investigation Report, Galena Airport and Campion Air Station, Alaska. prepared by Radian International LLC, Austin, TX for U.S. Department of the Air Force, 611th Civil Engineering Squadron, Elmendorf Air Force Base, AK, March 1996.

USAF. 2000. Cultural Resource Management Plan for Galena Airport, Alaska. June 2000. U.S. Department of the Air Force, 611th Civil Engineering Squadron, Elmendorf Air Force Base, AK.

USAF. 2002. Draft Environmental Monitoring Report #7, Galena Airport, AK. Volumes 1 and 2, Draft. December 31, 2002. Department of the Air Force, 611th Civil Engineering Squadron, Elmendorf Air Force Base, AK.


Site Specific Information

Service: U.S. Air Force; 611th Air Support Group
Size: Installation facilities total 84 acres; 6,250 ft runway
Installation Status: Caretaker Standby - many facilities used for civilian purposes
Installation Mission: Strategic air defense

ATSDR Action Dates

Initial Site Visit: July 7-11, 2003

Meetings Attended:
- Telephone conference RAB Meeting, February 14, 2003.
- Informal Public Availability Sessions July 8-11, 2003.

Persons Met With:

David Hertzog (611CES/CEVR)
Sardar Hassan (AFMOA/SGZE)
Steven Strausbauch (AFIERA/RSRE)
Daniel Medina (AFIERA/RSRE)

Federal/State/Local Agencies
Darcie Warden FWS
AK Game and Fish
Ann Farris (ADEC (via telephone))

Louden Tribal Conference
Peter Captain Sr. - First Chief
Carole Holley
Eleanor Yatlin
Phil Koontz
Cindy Pilot

Tanana Chiefs Conference
Peter Wallis

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry,
Jeff Kellam
Libby Howze
Richard Sullivan
Richard Kauffmann

Table of Contents The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 4770 Buford Hwy NE, Atlanta, GA 30341
Contact CDC: 800-232-4636 / TTY: 888-232-6348

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