The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found high levels of lead contamination at a former junkyard 4 miles south of Wrangell.
The elevated levels of lead at the Byford Junkyard at 4 mile Zimovia Highway are high enough to be a threat to human health.
Wrangell Economic Development Director Carol Rushmore said the borough applied for an EPA grant to test the site for contamination.
“We were working with the EPA to start the testing process so that we could eventually clean up that property knowing there was some contamination on that site,” Rushmore said.
The EPA recently informed the borough of test results that indicated lead contamination at the site. The borough posted signs at the site and is asking people to stay away from it. Adjacent properties do not show high levels of contamination.
The beach below the junkyard is a popular place for harvesting clams. Shellfish samples from the area are being tested for lead and other heavy metals because of possible runoff from the junkyard.
The EPA is working on a plan to clean up the site. The federal agency will excavate contaminated material and remove it from Wrangell Island.
The City and Borough of Wrangell inherited the junkyard through a foreclosure.
Borough Manager Jeff Jabusch said it could fall on the city to pay for the cleanup, but the EPA will likely cover the bill.
“They can make the decision to say, ‘Hey, this is your bill. We’ll clean it up and send you the bill.’ But we’re very hopeful and reasonably confident that they will pick up the tab on this and get it cleaned up,” Jabusch said.
Borough officials hope the property will eventually be clean enough for residential use, but that level of cleanup could depend on future funding.