Crews prepare to remove remaining fuel from crippled tug

December 27, 2009 

VALDEZ -- A crippled tugboat that spilled fuel into Alaska's Prince William Sound after hitting the same reef hit by the Exxon Valdez in an oil disaster 20 years ago reached port early Sunday morning, a spokesman for the tug's owner said.

The Pathfinder arrived under tow into Valdez, and crews will now work to determine how much diesel fuel spilled into the bay after the tug ran aground on Wednesday, Crowley Maritime Corp. spokesman Jim Butler said.

The Coast Guard said that two of the tug's tanks -- containing an estimated 33,500 gallons of diesel fuel -- were damaged.

In Valdez, responders were checking the stability of the Pathfinder in preparation to begin removal of about 93,000 gallons of fuel from seven of the vessel's eight undamaged tanks.

That work was expected to begin later Sunday, said Steve Russell, an environmental program specialist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

After the grounding, diesel fuel sheens of one mile and three miles spread across the waters on two separate occasions. But officials said no animals were injured and the fuel didn't reach land.

The boat is part of a ship escort service created after the Exxon Valdez spilled an estimated 11 million gallons of oil in 1989.

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