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Environmental testing details rocket crash impacts at Kodiak’s Pacific Spaceport Complex

The results from environmental testing at Kodiak’s Pacific Spaceport Complex are back following January’s fiery rocket crash at the facility. Officials with Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation say overall, any contamination was largely contained to the immediate area, and cleanup is moving quickly.

Twenty-two sites around the Spaceport complex were tested for residual jet fuel and any other contaminants following January’s rocket crash. Restoration Science & Engineering, out of Anchorage, and Kodiak’s Brechan Construction were responsible for digging and sampling the test pits.

Jade Gamble works for the spill response division of Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

“The test results actually came back pretty good,” said Gamble. “There’s some limited areas that are going to require some remediation and most of those came back below or close to our cleanup levels.”

She said one site did have higher levels of contaminants, and soil from that area will be excavated and sent to the Lower 48 for disposal. Officials with ADEC said via email they don’t know the exact volume of soil that will be removed yet during the cleanup.

More than 6,000 gallons of fuel were released when California-based ABL Space Systems’ rocket tumbled back to earth in early January. The original spill report cited 5,200 gallons of jet fuel, that’s been revised since the initial crash. And some of the facility’s infrastructure was damaged or destroyed in a subsequent fire at the facility.

At the time, ABL said a large portion of that fuel burned off, and those findings were confirmed by ADEC. The nature of the launch and subsequent crash also means that the fuel didn’t pool on the ground when it was released, and Gamble says the spill didn’t contaminate groundwater or nearby shorelines.

“There isn’t any concern for the beaches, or any of this getting to the ocean,” said Gamble.

Gamble said the department has approved a remediation plan and is currently working with officials from the Spaceport and ABL on site cleanup.

“All parties involved, they’ve been very responsive, they’ve been taking quick, fast actions, and have met the expectations for the department.”

Milton Keeter is the chief executive officer of Alaska Aerospace, which owns and operates the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Narrow Cape.

“We really do care about the environment, it’s unfortunate that an event like this has occurred,” said Keeter. “I can’t guarantee that it will never happen again, but we will meet the state of Alaska’s requirements to make sure that we remediate to the standards expected by the state of Alaska.”

He said they hope to complete the clean up and have the launch facility fully functional again by the beginning of the summer.