Workers load bags of excavated dirt onto a barge at Big Level Island in Sumner Strait south of Petersburg. (Photo courtesy of the Federal Aviation Administration)

If you’ve flown in a commercial airline over Southeast Alaska, chances are the plane you took used a remote navigation and communications site at Level Island, about 25 miles southwest of Petersburg. That site’s operated remotely by the Federal Aviation Administration. While, it’s automated now, it used to be staffed by as many as 20 people. This year it’s nearing the end of clean up work for contaminated soils from leaking and spilled fuel and other hazardous materials. The size and cost of that project has turned out to be much larger than anticipated.

The FAA’s Brad Platt is responsible for contaminated sites for the agency on the west coast. He says a contractor and subcontractor are wrapping up excavation of the soil as soon as this week. They’ll ultimately remove more than 2,500 cubic yards of dirt and send that south to Oregon. The cost of the work has topped five million dollars. Joe Viechnicki spoke with Platt Monday about that project.

The work started in late April. The contractor Brice Environmental, a subsidiary of the Alaska Native Corporation Calista, has four workers on the job; subcontractor Reid Brothers has two. The FAA’s Platt says while soil excavation is wrapping up, workers could be sending those bags of contaminated dirt south to Oregon for another month.

Elsewhere in Alaska, the FAA is also cleaning up dumps at formerly manned FAA sites on Woody Island near Kodiak, Johnstone Point in Prince William Sound and by Nenana in the interior part of the state.