August 15, 2006
Donie Bret-Harte represented the Toolik management team. Chad Diesinger, TFS Camp Manager, and John Hobbie, Scientific Liaison, attended. Donie Bret-Harte recorded these notes, in consultation with others who attended the meeting.
First, here is an update on the water well, which was discussed at the last User Forum. The water from the well passed the required tests so that it need not be considered surface water and requires less treatment than is currently applied to water from the lake. Water taken from the wellhead will likely be used this winter. However, no distribution system has yet been completed or approved by ADEC. UAF has contracted with Design Alaska to assist in designing and permitting a water distribution system.
Adrian Green asked for clarification of the regulations regarding hunter activities in the vicinity of Toolik Lake. Scientists were disturbed by hunters that walked through experimental plots and shot arrows very near to the pad. Marselle Alexander-Ozinskas commented that several people felt that the situation was not safe. Chad responded that he had looked up the ADF&G regulations, and hunting is only prohibited on the pad itself, although it is always illegal to shoot someone. Most hunters are sensitive to the needs of researchers and do not attempt to hunt within the plots or very close to camp, but some are not. Scott Houghton wondered if we could explore the possibility of establishing a buffer zone where hunting was not allowed, through the BLM. However, it appears that this is really an issue to bring to the state, which establishes the hunting regulations. It was suggested that scientists could write letters to ADF&G, and Scott agreed to try to find out an appropriate address for correspondence. Chad commented that Kurt Bettingfield, the trooper who used to be stationed in Coldfoot, has recently retired. However, the troopers do have a temporary camp at Happy Valley, and have stopped by camp several times to check in with the staff. Chad will report any hunting violations to them that are reported to him. Reportable hunting violations include herding caribou with automobiles, shooting from the road, and shooting caribou cows.
John Hobbie asked about safety issues in camp. There have been a few safety issues in camp this summer, but they have all been dealt with. There was an acid spill under a fume hood, within a secondary containment. It was cleaned up. A mercury-containing thermometer was broken in a boat; science support assistant/EMT Shelby Bakken cleaned it up. Adrian commented that posted instructions as to how to deal with chemical wastes are not completely clear, but one can ask EMT/Hazmat specialist Nate Green, so that takes care of any problems. Christina Maki commented that she felt that the procedures for dealing with Hazmat were working well. Finally, camp assistant Kelly Burton dislocated his shoulder in the early season when he slipped on the ice while getting water for the sauna. He was taken to Prudhoe Bay to have his shoulder put back in, and safety signs were subsequently posted.
John asked if there were protocols for training users in the use of power tools. Chad commented that, in the orientation, he mentions the need for people who want to use power tools to contact Scott Houghton prior to using them. Scott commented that science support staff are usually in the shipping/receiving tent during the day, and intercept any users who want to use saws, etc. Science support staff members either teach people how to use the tools, or more often, just do the job themselves. The shop trailer does have a grinder and a drill press that are not always attended by science support staff. Scott felt that neither of those tools is as dangerous as the saws that are located in the shipping/receiving tent. Safety glasses and hearing protection are available, both in the shop trailer and in the shipping/receiving tent.
John commented that a safety review at the Marine Biological Laboratory recommended that the MBL provide safety training, and videos on topics such as chemical safety, and he recommended that Toolik should do something similar. Adrian commented that in the past the wet lab users have been required to view a lab safety video as part of a briefing conducted by Chris Crockett and Adrian before they were allowed to work in there. That briefing didn’t happen this year. Nate Green commented that the UAF lab safety video is available, if desired, but that the REUs seemed to be well-supervised this year. Christina commented that she is in the wet lab most of the days of the week, and communicates with people about good laboratory practices. John responded that a lot of responsibility falls on post-docs, graduate students, and research assistants to watch out for the REUs, and that there should be some formal training by the institution. He suggested that there should be safety-training courses put in place before the LTER site review next summer. He recommended formalizing a truck/car safety briefing (which is already in place for the new science support trucks), and a lab safety briefing. We could use the UAF on-line lab safety briefing, at a minimum. Scott commented that it might be a good idea to have a lab safety form that everyone would fill out when they arrive in camp. This form would certify that the user had watched taken the on-line safety training, and would include the name of the person to notify in case there is a problem.
Donie asked whether people have been using the new science support trucks, and whether they are proving to be satisfactory. Adrian commented that they have been using the trucks and that they are very nice, but that the possibility of scheduling them has not been publicized well enough. The schedule is posted next to Scott’s desk, and there is information posted on the door of the Comm room, but it was suggested that perhaps the schedule should be located next to the MBL truck board. However, Scott needs to retain control over the scheduling process, because of the requirement to certify drivers for VPR’s insurance coverage. Adrian agreed to put a note on the MBL truck board directing folks to talk to Scott about scheduling the science support trucks. John commented that the MBL hopes to phase out the older vehicles and not replace them, and wonders when we should request more trucks. We will not request new trucks this year, as we are still gathering data on the usage of these trucks, but possibly will request more trucks next year if demand warrants.
People commented that the new shower module is very nice. It is attractive, the cubbies are useful, and there is a lot more room. It is a big improvement, and we appreciate the work that VPR did to construct it. The showerheads are very high in the new shower, however. Scott will add an extension to bring them down somewhat. The light/fan in the women’s shower still does not work because it needs a breaker, but this will be fixed this fall, when the VPR electrician returns.
Shipping is going very well this year. Scott commented that, because trucks are going back and forth more regularly to Fairbanks, IAB has been able to move a lot of the freight without relying on Lynden. Lynden has not been as reliable this year because of complications involved with taking on the federal by-pass mail contract, and some of the contractors have experienced problems getting freight through Lynden. Scott also commented that FEDEX labels can be prepared here at Toolik, and boxes for FEDEX can be staged in the arctic entry of the dining hall. There is a freezer at the logistics trailer in Fairbanks, and Brett will get frozen shipments to FEDEX before 12 noon, so they will go out of Fairbanks the same day.
After the meeting, Jim Laundre provided two requests. He sees a need for another Conex between lab 3 and the winter lab, as the existing Conex that provides storage for labs 2 and 3 is filled up. He also requested that the truck washing station next to the kitchen be moved, so that truck washing doesn’t create in so much mud where people have to walk to get to the labs.
The suggestion box in the dining hall was opened, and contained requests for the following items: Crackling Oat Bran cereal, a new shower curtain for the men’s side of the shower module, chopsticks for the dining hall, and a CB in the office for contacting truckers. There was also a plea to remove Alex Huryn’s mummified fox from lab 3. The cereal and the chopsticks have already been obtained. Scott will obtain another shower curtain. There is already an antenna in the Comm room that will allow CB contact with folks who are close to camp. Alex’s mummified fox will be left for him to deal with.
Folks who attended and/or provided comments: