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Unknown oil spill identified in Sitka

U.S. Coast Guard(Source: Coast Guard)
U.S. Coast Guard(Source: Coast Guard)(Coast Guard)
Published: Nov. 20, 2021 at 5:35 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) -

An unidentified leak of oil is occurring in Sitka near the Sitka Fine Arts Center on Lincoln Street. The spill was discovered on Thursday, Nov. 18 at 12 p.m., and by Friday afternoon the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Spill Prevention and Response had issued a situation report. The department is working with the U.S. Coast Guard and staff from the Sitka Science Center, where major facility improvements are taking place.

“The volume and type of product spilled is unknown at this time. The spilled product is dark and viscus sharing characteristics with used oil or bunker oil,” reads the department report. “The cause of the spill is not yet determined. The source of the spill also is under investigation. A potential source has been identified uphill of the Sitka Sound Science Center on property owned by the Sitka Fine Arts Camp.”

The Sitka Science Center operates a fish hatchery, which is undergoing previously planned maintenance and does not have any fish present in the hatchery. No fish are in the penstocks due to seasonal operations, but the empty penstocks and shoreline surrounding the penstocks have been impacted by the oil spill.

“There have been no observations or reports of impacts to wildlife,” reads the department report. “Recovery of oil will continue near the Sitka Sound penstocks. The U.S. Coast Guard and Department will continue efforts to confirm the source of the release and develop a plan for source control. The team is also reassessing booming and potential water diversion operations to limit the area impacted by the oil.”

The department reports that source control has not been achieved and a cause has yet to be determined. The Coast Guard has begun sampling the spilled material to determine what it may be. A contractor form the coast guard deployed multiple layers of containment boom and a sorbent boom, according to the situation report. The volume was reported to have decreased between the initial discovery on Thursday and later that afternoon.

Water from Indian River was rerouted back through a wooden pipe to a pond and a skimmer is on site.

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