Cleanup Continues at Buskin River Oil Spill Site

Cleanup Continues at Buskin River Oil Spill Site

Source: https://alaska-native-news.com, March 27, 2019
By: James Cobb

Oil spill responders are continuing the cleanup at the American President Lines facility near Anton Larsen Bay Road and Old Tom Stiles Road, the Buskin River, its tributary and the Saint Paul Harbor after a spill of approximately 1,370 gallons of diesel that occurred there on the night of March 15th, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation reports.

The spill, which was discovered at 9 am on March 16th, originated from a broken fuel line to a refrigeration unit on the APL property. When discovered, the leak had emptied the contents of the storage tank into the yard. From the yard, rain runoff washed the oil into the drainage ditch and into a culvert on the property.

From that point, the oil drained into a tributary of the Buskin River, into the Buskin and out into the Saint Paul Harbor. That area is Kodiak’s main subsistence and sport fishing river in the Kodiak area, and is also used to gather grasses for traditional use by Kodiak’s Sun’aq tribe.

Immediately after discovering the spill, APL contacted their consultant Environmental Contracting Services who in turn contacted ADEC. By 12:20 pm, ADEC had contacted the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Detachment.

APL and ECS personnel set up check dams, dug trenches and laid absorbent materials to stem the flow into and out of the culvert. As personnel from the Marine Safety Detachment and the Coast Guard Fire Department responded to assist, ECS conducted aerial surveys to determine the extent of the spill area.

After being notified, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service responded to begin wildlife surveys.

Also, following notification that afternoon, Alaska Chadux Corporation arrived at the scene of the spill by the night of the 16th. By the morning of the 17th ADEC had also arrived and along with Chadux began shoreline assessments.

“Responders have deployed absorbent sweep and boom along the river bank to recover fuel and an oleophilic skimmer in conjunction with the boom at the mouth of the tributary entering Buskin River,” ADEC reported.

Heavy rainfall forced responders to build underflow dams to manage oil-tainted run-off from the site. The run-off systems continued to be taxed and again needed fortification as the week wore on.

ADEC reported that by Sunday, the 24th, the cleanup had captured approximately 125 to 150 gallons of free product and 108 bags of oily waste.

“Cold Water Deluge” efforts have since begun as responders work to rid the Buskin Beach tributaries and riverbanks of oil which is then captured by oil boom and the skimmer at the mouth of the river.

“Representatives from APL, ADEC, USCG, ADFG, and Alaska Department of Natural Resources were on site March 23 and 24 to conduct an assessment of the impacted area according to ADEC.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has conducted extensive surveys in the affected area and various wildlife has been observed in the vicinity of the spill area.  The area is a wintering habitat for several migratory waterfowl and is also inhabited by several bird species year-round.

The Buskin River system also sports all major salmon species and trout with the exception of King Salmon and the beaches in the area support Pacific Razor Clams, all of which are harvested by subsistence users.

Various species of whales and porpoises frequent the area as do sea otters, seals and sea lions. Thus far, only one sea otter carcass has been located although marine mammal experts from multiple agencies state that it is unlikely that the otter died as a result of the spill.

ADEC reports that the “cold water deluge” will continue in the area until it is no longer effective. Containment, passive recovery, and runoff management tactics continue and are being monitored, and APL is working on waste disposal plans and are managing the impacted soil in the yard.

Additional information from ADEC and images of the cleanup in the affected area can be viewed on their site.

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