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Fort Wainwright fined over $79,000 dollars for banned motor vehicle waste disposal wells

(Seattle—Sept. 19, 2011) The Fort Wainwright Army base will pay over $79,000 for failing to shut down three banned motor vehicle disposal wells by the closure deadline, according to a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA banned Class V injection wells for motor vehicle waste disposal in 1999 because of the risks they pose to groundwater sources. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, facilities in Alaska had until 2005 to permanently close this category of wells.

“Our inspectors are still finding motor vehicle waste disposal wells in Alaska that should have been shut down years ago,” said Edward Kowalski, Director of EPA’s Office of Compliance and Enforcement in Seattle. “The wells can contaminate groundwater that communities depend on. Facilities need to do the responsible thing and close the wells.”

EPA notified the army base, located near Fairbanks, Alaska, several times beginning in 2005 that the wells needed to be shut down. All the wells were located in a groundwater protection area and had the potential to endanger public drinking water if motor vehicle fluids such as engine oil, transmission fluid, antifreeze and solvents were carried into the aquifer.

Fort Wainwright will reclassify two of the closed wells that showed no contamination and use them as septic systems for sanitary waste only. Sampling showed that the third well did have contamination problems and it has been permanently closed. No known impacts to human health arose as a result of this contamination.

Underground injection wells are often used in areas where sewage treatment facilities are not available. When an injection well is used for fluid disposal, it is important to ensure that no harmful substances that could endanger drinking water sources are injected.

There is a public notice online for any interested individuals or groups who want to review this settlement. The notice is available at this website: http://yosemite.epa.gov/r10/enforce.nsf/Current+Public+Notices/garrison_fort_wainwright_pn

For information about motor vehicle waste disposal wells, please visit http://yosemite.epa.gov/R10/water.nsf/UIC/MVWDW

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