On May 10th, an eighteen ton bulldozer sank into a kettle pond while traveling to Stephan Lake as part of a convoy of heavy equipment. The driver, 72 year old Donald Kiehl of North Pole, was killed when his bulldozer broke through the ice near the edge of the lake. As of the 14th of June, the bulldozer remains at the bottom of the lake.
At a special meeting of the Chase Community Council held on the evening of June 13th, Chase resident Mike Wood stated that the bulldozer was still under the lake, and expressed concern over the potential for a chemical leak. The lake where the accident occurred is within the boundaries of the Chase community.
KTNA contacted the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, (ADEC) , to inquire about the nature of a potential spill. Shannon DeWandel, a member of the Spill Prevention and Response (SPAR) Team, says that the D6 bulldozer could contain up to 75 gallons of petroleum products, but that it will not be possible to determine how much may have leaked into the water until the bulldozer is extracted and remaining levels can be measured.
According to DeWandel, ADEC has deployed absorbent materials in the incident area, and there has been some discoloration of the ice at the site where the bulldozer broke through. Further containment and cleanup efforts will have to wait until the ice has melted off of the surface of the lake, however.
The convoy that the bulldozer was part of was operating under a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) permit, and was executed by Alaska Diversified Services. KTNA spoke with Clark Cox, Natural Resource Manager at DNR, who says that DNR is in regular contact with Alaska Diversified Services, and is waiting to receive a plan in writing regarding removal of the bulldozer from the lake. Potential ideas include floating the bulldozer so that it is easier to remove, as it is currently resting on a slope under the surface. Until the plan is received and approved by DNR, there is not a timeline for the bulldozer’s recovery.
According to Cox, icy conditions are slowing the process for the extraction of the bulldozer, which is submerged at approximately twenty-five feet below the surface. KTNA will follow this story as more details become available.