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Contaminated soil delays Juneau arts institute construction

October 7, 2020 GMT

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A discovery of contaminated soil has delayed construction of a new arts center in Alaska’s capital city.

The contamination may affect the target date to complete Sealaska Heritage Institute’s future arts campus in downtown Juneau, KTOO Public Media reported Tuesday.

“Believe me, it’s aggravating for me to look out the window and not see anything happening,” said Lee Kadinger, the institute’s chief operating officer. “We’re waiting for soil testing to come back, and so things are just kind of on hold.”

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Previous testing indicated the likelihood of heating fuel or diesel in the soil, Kadinger said.

“Prior to Sealaska’s ownership, there was a gas station on the site that was there I believe until the ’60s or thereabouts,” Kadinger said. “There’s also many underground, buried fuel tanks that are in the downtown area uphill from the site.”

The institute is working with the state Department of Environmental Conservation on a plan to deal with the contaminated soil, he said.

Cost and time estimates could not immediately be confirmed. Depending on the contents, the soil may be disposed locally or require shipment to Seattle, Kadinger said.

The institute is exploring possibilities for cost recovery including insurance, liable past owners and grants from state or federal agencies, he said.

The institute hopes to open the arts campus by the end of next summer in time for Celebration, a festival of Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures held every two years in Juneau.

The institute has raised most of the $13 million funding for the arts campus, while the Juneau Assembly is considering a $1.5 million grant. A first reading of the grant proposal was scheduled by the assembly for Oct. 26 with a public hearing and final vote Nov. 23.

The project is expected to create 55 jobs and millions of dollars of economic impact for the city, Kadinger said.