(Seattle) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation are mobilized to remove 4,400 gallons of low-sulfur diesel from a creek that flows into the Tiekel River after an oil tanker truck slid off the Richardson Highway 48 miles northeast of Valdez, Alaska on Dec. 9 and spilled the fuel it was transporting. The fuel went into a creek that flows into the Tiekel River, which in turn flows into the world-renowned Copper River. The rivers provide habitat for several salmon and trout species. EPA is working with ADEC under Unified Command to complete the cleanup.
Alaska Petroleum Distributing, Inc., the North Pole-based owner and operator of the truck, mobilized a crew and began cleanup of the spill under the supervision of ADEC. By Dec. 22, the company had used most of its $1 million insurance coverage and claimed it was financially unable to continue cleanup. The company failed to comply with an EPA order to complete the work, at which point EPA began mobilizing cleanup crews.
The truck was on its way to the North Slope to supply diesel fuel for petroleum industry drilling operations. According to ADEC, there were 16 tank trailer spills from 2013-2014 totaling over 19,000 gallons spilled.
The diesel remains in the snow-covered, frozen creek. EPA contractors are mobilized for earthmoving to remove the diesel, transportation and disposal of contaminated material and careful creek bed restoration. To date, 650 cubic yards of contaminated material have been removed. Cleanup and site restoration will take 7-10 days.
“Companies that transport large amounts of fuel regularly should have cleanup plans and adequate funds ready in case of emergencies,” said Bob Whittier, the EPA On-Scene Coordinator. “When spills happen in challenging weather conditions, cleanups can be costly and extremely difficult. If companies can’t handle spills in creeks and rivers, we have to move quickly and use taxpayer dollars for cleanup because the longer we wait, the more risk to the fish and habitat.”