Up to 294 gallons of diesel fuel could have leaked in University Lake

Nearly 300 gallons of diesel fuel leaked from underground tank
Nearly 300 gallons of diesel fuel leaked from underground tank
Published: Jul. 11, 2023 at 4:37 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation reports 294 gallons of diesel fuel escaped from an underground fuel storage tank at the Alaska Native Medical Center, adjacent to the University Lake in Anchorage. An initial estimate indicated about 20 gallons of oil made it into the lake, but that number is now being called into question.

“When they discovered that the fuel vault also was flooding, and that’s where it came from, after they were able to isolate it, they were able to calculate what was unaccounted for and that was 294 gallons,” said Kelly Rawalt, public information officer for the DEC. “So that’s the maximum amount that could have discharged into the lake. We do not believe that much was discharged because of the amount of fuel that was found in that oil-water separator. So what we can say is it’s somewhere between 20 gallons and 294.”

Officials say new data prompted them to update the quantity of fuel that was potentially released.

“The situation evolved, there was more rainfall, there appeared to be more fuel in the environment as the weeks went on so hesitated to release a new number because we don’t want to confuse people by putting out a bunch of different numbers,” Rawalt said. “We wanted to wait until we had a more certain number to release so it would be more meaningful and having the maximum amount that could’ve been discharged, we feel is a much more meaningful number.”

Officials closed the park to the public as crews worked to contain the spill. Booms were placed around the spill area and absorbent material was placed on top of the water and along the shoreline.

The park has now reopened, but a fence remains to keep people away from the immediate spill location. People in the area had reported smelling the fuel in recent days, but a crew from Alaska’s News Source was in the area Tuesday afternoon and noticed no fuel smells.

Anyone spotting any fish or wildlife affected by the spill is urged to contact the US Fish and Wildlife Service at 907-242-6893.