From left, Kenai Peninsula Borough Environmental Manager Ethan Walz, Borough Attorney Sean Kelley, Borough Risk Manager Sovala Kisena, Borough Finance Director Brandi Harbaugh and Borough Purchasing and Contracting Director John Hedges stand at the site of the former ZipMart on Friday, June 30, 2023 in Sterling, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Kenai Peninsula Borough)

Assembly takes down ZipMart structure

The dilapidated ZipMart building in Sterling was demolished last week, capping monthslong efforts to mitigate a structure the Kenai Peninsula Borough called a public safety hazard.

Members of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in June gave the borough permission to demolish the building, which started to collapse earlier this year. Prior to taking the structure down, the borough signed an agreement with the State of Alaska ensuring that the borough would not be held liable for the contaminated soil on which the building sits.

The ZipMart has been out of business for decades and sits on land contaminated by fuel spillage first detected in the 1990s.

In all, it is estimated that about 53,000 gallons of fuel were released into the ground, with fuel detected as far away as Lee Street. The state estimates the total fuel “plume,” or spill area, is more than 3,000 feet long and 800 feet wide. The site appears in the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s Contaminated Sites Program.

It is unusual for the borough to demolish privately owned structures, however both the assembly and the Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Commission agreed that the ZipMart site posed a risk to the public. In a statement lauding the removal of the structure, Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Peter Micciche’s office also noted the absence of the property owners during the condemnation process.

“The extraordinary speed at which this process proceeded was due to the cooperation of the mayor, the assembly, and staff of KPB,” Micciche’s office said in a press release. “The property owners were not responsive in addressing the safety concerns caused by the building nor did they attend the public hearing held by the planning commission to initiate the condemnation and removal of the building.”

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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