Some progress has been made on the cleanup efforts for the D6 bulldozer that broke through the ice on an unnamed lake in the Chase Community this May, but now the contractor and lodge owner are involved in a contract dispute.
According to Shannon DeWandel of the Department of Environmental Conservation, a team was able to extract the diesel fuel and other chemicals from the submerged bulldozer. She says that over fifty gallons were extracted. An earlier estimate from DEC placed the total potential volume of petroleum products at seventy-five gallons. According to Stephan Lake Holdings’ attorney, the Lodge paid approximately $36,000 for the hazmat removal. Now that the contaminants have been removed, the next potential step is removal of the bulldozer from the lake, which could cost $200,000.
One complicating factor is the determination of who, exactly, is responsible for the incident. The state has sent letters to Stephan Lake Lodge, Alaska Diversified Services, and the estate of Donald Kiehl, the owner and operator of the D6 who lost his life when it fell through the ice. According to Shannon DeWandel, the insurance companies for all three parties have been in negotiation regarding responsibility for the incident. In addition to the three companies involved, the state also contacted Ben Stevenson, a contractor for Stephan Lake Lodge.
Ken Larson, owner of Alaska Diversified Services, told KTNA via email that his insurance company is discussing the removal of the dozer as well as a settlement regarding the death of Donald Kiehl. He believes he is doing “whatever is necessary to do the right thing for the Kiehl family, State of [Alaska,] and the environment.” He also says he is in the midst of a contract dispute with Stephan Lake Lodge.
Bart Tiernan, the Lodge’s attorney, confirms that there is a contract dispute being negotiated with Alaska Diversified Services, but that the Lodge contends that the contractor is in breach. Tiernan says that, now that the bulldozer has had the chemicals pumped out of it that there is time to negotiate the remaining contractual issues and the potential recovery of the bulldozer. He says that the Lodge feels it has experienced disproportionate pressure from the state with regard to the issue, since it did not actually operate the cat train.
Negotiations are ongoing, and it’s unclear if the bulldozer will be removed at all. For now, however, the environmental risk has been diminished.