EPA proposes to fine Eielson for violations

LETTER: Alaska's representatives protest action against base.

Associated PressSeptember 24, 2011 

FAIRBANKS -- A proposed fine against Eielson Air Force Base has spurred the three members of Alaska's congressional delegation to step in.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it found violations during a July 2010 inspection and proposed a $218,700 fine, according to a letter sent Thursday to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Democratic Sen. Mark Begich and Republican Rep. Don Young said in a letter that a fine will stymie the base from conducting repairs, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

"We believe Eielson AFB is pursing every effort possible to comply with EPA regulations given the reality of operating a dated facility in need of boiler and other repairs with a limited budget and personnel shortages," the three elected officials say in the letter.

The 1951 power and heating plant burns 200,000 tons of coal per year to provide all the base's heat and electricity. The base recently announced a $54 million contract to replace two of its six boilers.

EPA spokeswoman Hanady Kader said the agency cannot discuss the exact violations found because the case is still open.

"We continue to have a constructive dialogue with the base, and we're hoping to move toward settlement," Kader said.

The letter from the congressional delegation hints at the source of the fine, saying it relates to violations of the 1976 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which gives the EPA authority to regulate hazardous waste.

The EPA also recently announced a smaller settlement with Fort Wainwright over the use of so-called injection wells. The EPA banned a type of floor drain still in use at Fort Wainwright in 1999 because toxic material dumped down the drain could contaminate the water supply.

Fort officials said they have prevented hazardous waste from entering the wells, and said the $79,000 settlement was simply the result of a paperwork mistake.

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