- Associated Press - Friday, August 4, 2017

WRANGELL, Alaska (AP) - Plans to store contaminated soil near a recreation area in the Alaska Panhandle could be stalled by the U.S. Forest Service.

Alaska environmental officials seek to move nearly 20,000 cubic yards (15,300 cubic meters) of lead-laced soil in a rock quarry south of Wrangell, located about 48 miles (77 kilometers) from Petersburg, CoastAlaska News reported (https://bit.ly/2wsi5LX).

The Department of Environmental Conservation wants the soil moved because they say it poses a threat to the marine environment. The soil has been prepared with phosphate-based product so the lead won’t make its way into soil or waterways, according to officials.

To move the soil to the quarry near Pat’s Creek, the state needs a road permit to use a Forest Service road, which the Tongass National Forest spokesman Paul Robbins said could take time to approve.

“The Tongass National Forest will not issue a road authorization before a NEPA process is completed and we’ve received substantial public involvement,” he said, referring the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires a six month to two year review to assess the effect of resource development and other action on federal land.

The action has been met with controversy with residents questioning the safety and limited public comment opportunities, according to the report.

State officials had hoped to get started on the work by July 31. Earlier this week, they said they hope to begin later this month.

The Department of Environmental Conservation has scheduled a public workshop Aug. 21 and a meeting with the Wrangell Borough Assembly on Aug. 22.

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