Formerly used defense sites on Unalaska Island, Alaska: Mapping a legacy of environmental pollution

Renee Jordan-Ward, Frank A. von Hippel, Jennifer Schmidt, Marc P. Verhougstraete

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Unalaska Island, Alaska, served as a US military base during World War II. The military installed bases on Unalaska and nearby islands, many of which were built adjacent to Unangan communities. The military used toxic compounds in its operations and left a legacy of pollution that may pose health risks to residents and local wildlife. The goals of this study were to identify hotspots of contamination remaining at Unalaska formerly used defense (FUD) sites, evaluate the risk posed by arsenic, and examine “no US Department of Defense action indicated” (NDAI) status determinations for FUD sites near communities. We compiled soil chemistry data from remediation reports prepared by the US Army Corps of Engineers at 18 FUD sites on and near Unalaska. Nine had past and/or active remediation projects and on-site sampling data. Eight sites did not have sampling data and were characterized as NDAI. One site was listed as closed. For the nine sites with sampling data, we compiled data for 22 contaminants of concern (COC) and compared concentrations to soil cleanup levels for human health (18 AAC 75.341). We mapped contaminant concentrations exceeding these levels to identify hotspots of contamination. We found that concentrations of some of the 22 COC exceeded Alaska cleanup levels despite remediation efforts, including diesel range organics, arsenic, and lead. The highest COC concentrations were at the FUD site adjacent to the City of Unalaska. A quantitative risk assessment for arsenic found that the risk of exposure through drinking water is low. We highlight concerns with NDAI designations and current remedial practices at remote FUD sites located adjacent to communities. Our data suggest the need for further remediation and monitoring efforts on Unalaska for certain contaminants and research to examine potential threats to human and animal health associated with these sites. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2024;00:1–12.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalIntegrated environmental assessment and management
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Arctic pollution
  • Army Corps of Engineers
  • Health risk evaluations
  • Military contamination
  • Risk assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • General Environmental Science


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