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After Utqiagvik spill is discovered via social media post, DEC encourages direct reporting of spills

Tanks placed in the 1960's line a beach in Utqiagvik, Alaska. North Slope Borough photo.
Tanks placed in the 1960's line a beach in Utqiagvik, Alaska. North Slope Borough photo.(NSB)
Published: Jun. 26, 2021 at 9:55 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - In Utqiagvik, officials have sealed a buried tank said to be leaking on a beach along the Beaufort Sea. The leak was reported this week and said to be spreading a dark, tar-like substance on that beach, discovered by officials only after someone alerted them to a social media post.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation was notified of the post earlier this week, and the spill was reported to the U.S. Coast Guard National Response center on June 22.

The department said Friday that the spill has been stopped and the substance sent to Anchorage for testing after an initial situation report published by the DEC on June 23 indicated that the spill was not yet controlled or identified. The leaking substance is suspected to be asphalt or tar, the DEC said.

The area has also been barricaded.

The leak was coming from a row of 38, 2,500-gallon tanks that were placed on the beach for erosion control in the 1960′s, according to the DEC. One tank was known to be leaking; officials worried a few more could be doing the same.

So far, no oiled or injured wildlife has been reported.

The DEC suggests you contact it right away if you identify a spill, particularly one going into a body of water, which is considered immediately reportable.

Any hazardous substance spill should be reported right away. As for oil or petroleum products, any amount spilled into water must also be reported to the DEC immediately. For oil spills to land, spills in excess of 55 gallons must be reported immediately; spills in excess of 10 gallons but less than 55 gallons should be reported within 48 hours after the person has knowledge of the spill. Spills of one to 10 gallons must be recorded in a spill reporting log submitted to the DEC each month. Any oil spill to impermeable secondary containment areas in excess of 55 gallons must also be reported within 48 hours, per the DEC.

Keep in mind the DEC spill reporting lines have different phone numbers for each of the Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Juneau offices. For spills in central Alaska, you can call (907) 269-3062 to reach the Anchorage office; for spills in the northern part of the state, call (907) 451-2121 to get in touch with the Fairbanks office; and for incidents in Southeast, contact the Juneau office, at (907) 465-5340.

Other regional contacts with information regarding prevention and response can be found by clicking here.

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