Friday, August 30, is the deadline for the Lower Kuskokwim School District to move tens-of-thousands of gallons of diesel fuel away from the eroding Kuskokwim riverbank at Napakiak. There is a good chance that the school district will complete the project on time under the watch of military and government officials.
As far as LKSD Superintendent Dan Walker knows, there have been no delays in the project and all the project materials are in Napakiak. In an email to KYUK, he wrote “we anticipate being complete on time or very close to it.”
Construction on the project started Monday morning. U.S. Coast Guard Public Affairs Specialist Melissa McKenzie says that the school district is on track to finish the project by Friday.
“They’re doing everything the right way," she said. "They getting the contracts and making plans, and things are progressing. So our expectation is that, yes, they will be able to make that deadline.”
The U.S. Coast Guard gave the school district two weeks to move the fuel after confirming that the old tanks stood 76 feet from the eroding riverbank. The Coast Guard called the fuel’s proximity to the shrinking bank a “imminent and substantial threat” to public health and the environment
The school district hired a contractor to build a temporary fuel tank site in the Napakiak school parking lot, and to transfer the approximately 36,000 gallons of diesel fuel into it. If they don’t make the deadline, the Coast Guard has a contractor standing by to complete the job. Two Coast Guard officers arrived in Bethel on Thursday, and will accompany the school district to Napakiak on Friday to oversee the fuel transfer.
“Our primary objective is to get on-scene, evaluate the conditions of the riverbank erosion, and to see how their plans are coming along with getting that fuel oil out of there,” McKenzie said.
An official with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation will also be in Napakiak on Friday. He’ll be testing the soil around the old fuel tanks for diesel fuel contamination to determine if it needs to be cleaned before it erodes into the river.