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AK Beat: Alaska DOT fined by EPA over hazardous waste violations

  • Author: Alaska News
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published July 30, 2014

Alaska DOT fined $118,000 by EPA: The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has agreed to pay a $118,000 penalty for hazardous waste violations, according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency news release. The federal agency identified the violations, which stemmed from the state department mismanaging highway paint in Soldotna. In 2009, DOT employees reportedly failed to identify a 250-gallon batch of unusable yellow highway paint as a hazardous waste, the release says. They put the paint in a shallow pit lined with plastic and left it there for more than a year, during which time the waste solidified. The EPA says the "solid paints" were later disposed of at a landfill. Highway paint in its liquid form contains solvents that can release fumes and pose health risks to people nearby. The EPA also contends DOT failed to label a used oil tank and 55-gallon drums containing hazardous waste. The state department agreed to pay the fine and to comply with hazardous waste requirements under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the news release says.

Investigation leads to Juneau drug arrest: Juneau police say a 21-year-old man was arrested on multiple charges after a search of his home turned up a cache of drugs and tens of thousands of dollars. On Tuesday afternoon, the Juneau Police Department's Metro Drug Unit served a search warrant on the residence of Dustin Ian Fisher. The warrant was a culmination of drug cases against the young man in an investigation that started last month. No one was at the house on Fritz Cove Road when officers began their search, which allegedly turned up 5 grams of suspected hallucinogenic mushrooms, 6 pounds of suspected marijuana, two "doses" of the prescription drug Adderall and five pieces of blotter paper that cops think is LSD. Additionally, they seized $42,332, according to a police department news release. Fisher arrived 15 minutes into the search and was arrested for nine counts of third-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance and three counts of the same charge in the third degree, the news release says. Fisher was taken to Lemon Creek Correctional Center and is being held without bail. The FBI and Southeast Alaska Chiefs Against Drugs task force aided the Juneau police. The police department is continuing its investigation into Fisher.

Once-placid Arctic Ocean sees giant swells: In 2012, researchers measured swells of more than 16 feet in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska's northern coast, the Washington Post reports. While that number wouldn't raise eyebrows in the Pacific, in the Arctic Ocean, it came as something of a shock: As the researchers wrote in Geophysical Research Letters, "The observations reported here are the only known wave measurements in the central Beaufort Sea, because until recently the region remained ice covered throughout the summer and there were no waves to measure." As the extent of summer ice decreases, though, the longer distances of open water needed to generate large waves become increasingly common. Moreover, the researchers note that the action of such waves, if they increase, could further boost the rate at which Arctic ice melts.

Alcohol treatment for gun-toting priest: Rev. Sean Patrick Thomson, a former University of Alaska priest in Fairbanks, has enrolled in alcohol treatment in lieu of a 10-day jail sentence, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports. The newspaper says Thomas, who was arrested earlier this year for driving under the influence, pleaded guilty last month to a reckless driving charge and is participating in a three-month inpatient program in the Lower 48. When police arrested Thomas, he also reportedly had a small amount of marijuana and two firearms in his car. The director of human resources and legal coordinator for the Fairbanks diocese said Thomson would return to the diocese but not to his old parish.

Blind climber recounts McKinley experience: When blind Seattle-area climber Bruce Stobie reached Mount McKinley earlier this year in a bid to climb the continent-topping peak, he said he could feel the mountain's presence. "I felt like a guest — not a welcome guest," Stobie told Seattle public radio station KPLU. "All there was: rock, ice and snow. And cold and warm temperatures. And that's it. There's nothing else." Stobie had previously summited Mount Rainier with the help of guides, and he and his party made it to above 16,000 feet on McKinley before being turned around. Among the most striking impression of the experience, he said, was the silence he encountered high on the mountain: "I would just hang out at night and it would be totally quiet. No noise. Absolutely no noise," he said. "I cannot experience that down here. Even in the wilderness down here, there's noise."

Law allows traditional egg collection in Glacier Bay National Park: Last week President Obama signed legislation that allows Huna Tlingit to collect the eggs of glaucous-winged gulls in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, reports National Parks Traveler. Because Glacier Bay was established before the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, subsistence activities aren't allowed, requiring special intervention, such as legislation, to permit them, the site reported. Alaska's entire congressional delegation first proposed the change in 2011. "The final step to implement the law is the promulgation of regulations required to allow HIA tribal members to collect the gull eggs at rookeries under a harvest plan to be developed annually by the National Park Service and the tribe," National Parks Traveler reports.

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