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Oil spill no longer active in Sitka, source yet to be identified

The US Coast Guard marine sanitation device in Sitka is deployed in the Indian River.
The US Coast Guard marine sanitation device in Sitka is deployed in the Indian River.(Photo courtesy United States Coast Guard)
Published: Nov. 28, 2021 at 5:00 PM AKST
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SITKA, Alaska (KTUU) - The oil spill that was identified on Nov. 18 did reach Sitka Sound, but the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation reports that much of the spill was contained and no continued discharge has been observed since Nov. 19.

Through a situation report, the department reported that they are working with a contractor for the U.S. Coast Guard, the Sitka Fine Arts Camp and Sitka Sound Science Center on the event. The camp, science center and state of Alaska have all been identified as potential responsible parties in the report. However, no source has yet been determined and no responsible party has been determined either by the department. Oil was reported to be observed seeping from an crack which was exposed in the concrete seawall when water was being pumped from a manmade freshwater pond to feed penstocks for the nearby hatchery during previously scheduled maintenance.

“Indian River source water had been diverted as part of the Science Center’s scheduled maintenance to allow for the pond to be emptied. To protect the wooden supply pipe, water was rerouted back through the pipe and to the pond at noon on Friday, November 19 while responders were onsite to ensure adequate recovery and containment of oil,” the report said. “Following the reintroduction of the water supply, a short period of increased oil was observed in the pond and was recovered within the containment and sorbent boom in the penstock area. No discharge has been observed since this event.”

The volume, cause, and source of the oil spill all remain unknown and preparedness and response manager Sarah Moore said that oil did reach Sitka Sound.

“We’re very happy to report that we don’t have any indication that any wildlife have been impacted by this spill and because of the area where it was discharging and how quickly the containment boom was put out,” Moore said. “I think the impact on users of Sitka sound should be relatively minimal we’re obviously working really closely with the Sitka sound science center because we want to make sure their hatchery work is not impacted by this.”

The report said that the Coast Guard had completed a consultation required by the Endangered Species Act and said that no resources were identified to be at risk. A containment boom remains deployed in the event that oil begins leaking again and the Coast Guard are continuing efforts to develop a plan for control.

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