Read the full article by Claire Stremple (Alaska Public Media)

“The Southeast Alaska community of Gustavus is getting a multi-million dollar airport upgrade, but city officials and some residents are calling on the Alaska Department of Transportation to halt the project. That’s because toxic chemicals called PFAS are known to be present at the site.

So far, the state hasn’t stopped work. It held a Zoom meeting last week to explain its plan to residents.

One of those residents is Kelly McLaughlin.

From her coffee shop and gallery on Gustavus’ main road, it’s just a short walk through the forest to her home.

‘This is my house, my new muddy yard,’ she said, stepping out of the trees.

McLaughlin grew up here. All her neighbors are relatives.

‘This is sort of the back edge of the land that my grandparents bought when they moved here in the 60s,’ she said.

There’s a two-story house, a big chicken coop full of hens, a garden, and, now, an 8,000-gallon cistern that catches the rainwater her family drinks and bathes in.

They need the cistern because the state found toxic ‘forever chemicals’ called PFAS in McLaughlin’s well. PFAS don’t break down in the environment. They accumulate in the human body, and are linked to serious health effects, like cancer and immune system problems.

The PFAS came from the state-run airport, where contaminant-laden firefighting foams ran into groundwater and spread. More than a dozen wells were affected, and the state has supplied bottled water to those households since 2018.

PFAS are in McLaughlin’s chickens, in her garden and in her blood…”