Donlin Gold helps Green Star remove thousands of pounds of hazardous waste

photo by Greg Lincoln

Donlin Gold teamed up with Green Star this summer to collect almost 30,000 pounds of hazardous material and special wastes from five villages that were safely transported back to Anchorage for recycling or disposal.
The pilot program is designed to remove the most hazardous legacy material from local landfills to improve human health and the environment.
Donlin Gold took part in funding this program, and its Community Relations Coordinator and Environmental Field Coordinator Dan Twitchell assisted with the backhaul events in the region.
“Our goal with the program is to help local residents understand that without sophisticated landfills, what they put in the landfill ultimately ends up in the river,” said Twitchell. “The river is our life source and highway. Preventing waste from entering the river preserves it for future generations.”
Many residents recognize the environmental and health issues regarding these materials but are not sure how to overcome the environmental and economic hurdles of removing hazardous waste, explained Doug Huntman, director of the Green Star Community Program. As is common in rural Alaska, the funds to create a successful program are low or even nonexistent.
“We are working to educate local residents on properly segregating household hazardous wastes from regular garbage. Hazardous material really has no place in local landfills and should be managed in facilities outside of the region,” Huntman said
In addition to the collection events, the program hosts a community picnic where residents are encouraged to collect and drop off material from their home for free, as well as learn about the potential effects of improper disposal.
The summer 2018 program served as a pilot program for future backhaul efforts and involved the communities of Chuathabaluk, Crooked Creek, Napaimute, Upper and Lower Kalskag and Aniak.
Plans are in place to reach at least five more villages in the summer of 2019 as the next step in creating a sustainable household collection program for the region. Green Star’s longer term plans may include landfill clean-up, fish camp waste removal and testing water bodies near landfills for contaminants.
The Green Star® Community program provides positive incentives and fills key service gaps for rural Alaska communities by providing technical assistance and training to remote landfill and utility operators, community environmental personnel and local and tribal conservation personnel. This program promotes a more holistic perspective on community-based conservation efforts to improve landfill operations, waste reduction, energy conservation, wastewater and clean drinking water issues.