Environmental Cleanup Case Study

Brownfields Tribal
Response Program
Technical Support

Yakutat Tlingit Tribe
Yakutat, AK

For several years, the Yakutat Tlingit Tribe (YTT) has endeavored to characterize contamination in the lands and waters surrounding Yakutat, and assess the impact of contaminants on human health, natural resources, and cultural resources. Most of this contamination resulted from former military facilities and operations in the Yakutat area. People in the Yakutat community are concerned about the impact that toxic chemicals and other pollutants might have on the subsistence foods they depend on for their survival.

The opportunity to take a direct and proactive role in the investigation of priority sites came to YTT through the Brownfields Tribal Response Program (TRP). Ridolfi assisted the YTT in preparing and filing an application, and YTT was successful in entering the Tribal Response Program. TRP offered the flexibility and support the YTT needed to conduct site investigations based on the community’s concerns and priorities, rather than the policies and priorities of the military and other agencies.

Ridolfi succeeded in ushering YTT into TRP and developed the framework and strategy needed to build Tribal capacity, meet TRP requirements, and keep the YTT program moving forward and growing in capacity and capabilities. During the first year, Ridolfi worked with YTT to develop inventory of contaminated sites and establish a Public Record to store information compiled during site investigations and cleanup actions.

With a focus on YTT goals, Ridolfi developed a sampling quality assurance project plan (SQAPP) plan and site specific sampling and analysis plans for YTT priority sites. Ridolfi and YTT personnel collaborated to collect samples of soil, sediment, and shellfish. Field work conducted under TRP provided hands–on training for Tribal members, while engineers and scientists from Ridolfi made sure that the field work conformed to protocols in the SQAPP.

The samples collected were submitted to accredited laboratories and analyzed for contaminants of concern including dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and metals. The data from these analysis were validated, summarized, and interpreted, and the information was organized and reported in the Ankau Saltchucks Site Investigation Report. YTT has presented the results of the TRP studies at several environment conferences and meetings to inform the public and other stakeholders of the nature and extent of contamination in the Ankau Saltchucks. This information and the graphic presentations that YTT and Ridolfi have prepared have piqued the interest and gained the support of collaborators in the protection of human health and restoration of natural resources: Yak-Tat Kwaan, City and Borough of Yakutat, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and U.S. Forest Service.

Thanks to the Tribal Response Program, the Yakutat Tlingit Tribe now has the evidence, information, and collaborators needed to make decisions and move ahead in addressing and mitigating adverse impacts to human health, natural resources, and cultural resources in their homelands.