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BLM planning to spruce up Melozi Hot Springs

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Posted: Sunday, July 22, 2012 12:22 am | Updated: 10:34 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

Editor's note: The article has been revised to reflect that the springs are on federal land.

FAIRBANKS — Employees of the Bureau of Land Management are getting ready to do a little hot spring cleaning. Next month, the BLM plans to initiate the first phase of a cleanup operation at Melozi Hot Springs, located roughly 30 miles northeast of the village of Ruby.

The hot springs, located on federal land, was once a remote resort built and operated by Leonard Veerhausen in 1966. After Veerhausen’s death in 1976, Melozi passed through a series of lessees until 1996, when the BLM decided not to renew the lease.

According to a letter released to the city of Ruby and several other parties, the site has since deteriorated. The landing strip has become overgrown, preventing airplanes from landing at the hot springs. The hot springs is now only accessibly by helicopter, boat or foot.

Other problems, according to the BLM, include buildings that have either collapsed or are in danger of collapsing and the presence of hazardous materials.

Robin Walthour, with the bureau’s Central Yukon Field Office, said the hazardous materials include shot barrels of fuel that have leaked into the ground, propane tanks and batteries.

In one partially collapsed shed, Walthour said she found evidence of methyl ethyl ketone peroxide, a highly explosive chemical.

“That’s only one thing we found in the shed,” Walthour said. She described the shed as “so jampacked full of stuff you can hardly walk in there.”

The bureau’s plan is to clean up the site in three phases. The first phase, set to take place in August, would see them remove all debris. Next summer, the BLM will raze all structures at the hot springs except for the lodge and one of the cabins. Finally, in the summer of 2014, the bureau will remove the rest of the hazardous materials and clean any spills.

Walthour said the reason for the cleanup is public safety. The bureau hasn’t ruled out leasing the hot springs out again once they clean up the place.

“We’ve had a lot of people interested in it,” she said. But the lack of an operable airstrip is just one of many logistical problems a lessee would face.”

The proposal is in the 30-day public comment phase. So far, the bureau has received no comments. The public is invited to send any questions or comments to Walthour by phone at 474-2304 or by email at rlrodrig@blm.gov.

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