15,000 gallon oil spill reported near Kobuk River

Published: Jun. 22, 2020 at 10:03 PM AKDT
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An oil tank at Shungnak School in the Native Village of Shungnak has overflowed, causing around 15,000 gallons of heating oil to spill, according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

The spill was reported by the Native Village on Saturday and officials say it could impact the Kobuk River — which is around 300 feet away from the spill — and local drinking water which is 160 feet away.

AEDC said the spill was caused during a fuel transfer from a barge on the Kobuk River that was intended for the Shungnak Native Store but was delivered to the school instead, causing an overflow of the school tank #1. For now, the fuel transfers have been stopped and a crew in Shungnak is working to remove the oil by excavating contaminated soil and pumping it into containers.

Currently, no injuries or impacts to wildlife have been reported, AEDC said, but the area is being monitored by the department to prevent the oil from moving to other areas.

Both the Environmental Protection Agency and AEDC are working on cleaning the spill, but due to travel restrictions put in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic, neither agency is actually in Shungnak.

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