State issues permit for Nikiski oil-waste site

The State of Alaska last week approved a permit to allow a Texas-based waste disposal company to store up to 10 million gallons of petroleum drilling waste at a 1.5-acre site in Nikiski’s industrial area.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation permit allows AIMM Technologies Inc. to construct and operate a monofill storage site for drilling waste, produced by the nearby oil and gas industry, at the end of Halliburton Drive.

The issuance comes nearly 15 months after AIMM applied for the permit. The public process included advertisements in newspapers and an AIMM sponsored public meeting in July 2012, which saw an estimated 150 people attend.

The state did not hold a public hearing on the proposed monofill site, citing an “adequate” public comment period. Of the 229 written comments sent to the ADEC, 182 were a form letter.

AIMM plans to build a series of engineered and lined “disposal cells” that will hold a total 10.2 million gallons of waste and be filled over eight years, though the permit is only good for five years.

One waste cell is to be built and filled at a time. Each subsequent cell would be built as the prior one nears capacity.

According to AIMM’s plan, much of the drilling waste would be “dewatered” and that contaminated water trucked off to another disposal site in the Anchorage Bowl.

The final permit includes a series of specific and general conditions under which AIMM is expected to operate the site, such as the prohibition of dumping medical waste, asbestos, municipal solid waste, PCBs and radioactive waste.

According the ADEC, AIMM posted a $589,858 dollar bond prior to permit approval. Previously, ADEC estimated site abandonment, once filled, would cost the state $1.5 million to assume control and monitor the site.

Some in the community fear the site will either join or affect a neighboring tract known as the Arness Septage site, which has a past history of seeping petro chemical contamination. An additional groundwater-monitoring well was installed at the site last month, according to DEC’s contaminated sites database.

Nate Emory, ADEC environmental program specialist, previously noted that the state is not in the business of land use decision-making. AIMM chose the location, he said.

“AIMM chose the Kenai Borough, which is zoned mostly rural, has very little in the way of zoning restriction governance,” Emory said, “Our participation is objective and follows state law.”

As part of the permitting process, AIMM installed six groundwater-monitoring wells around the monofill site to satisfy the requirements of the Solid Waste Program’s permit application, according to ADEC.

A primary concern among residents in the area is drinking water contamination from a leaking storage cell, if the liner fails.

According to the state, AIMM’s drilling waste cannot be stored within 500 feet of any drinking water well. The storage cells are expected to be 23 feet above the groundwater aquifer. Leakage, if there is any, is expected to flow away from local drinking water sources.

“In the unlikely event of a release from the AIMM monofill, the groundwater hydrology shows that any contamination reaching the aquifer would travel to the southwest,” wrote the state.

The state expects that nothing liquid or solid will escape the lined storage facility, which is to be monitored by AIMM for 10 years, or longer, once full.

Previously, some oilfield waste handled by AIMM in Kenai was processed then dumped into the Kenai Peninsula Borough landfill. The AIMM monofill proposal sought to end the complicated nature of using the borough landfill.

Greg Skinner is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion He can be reached at