Responders have mobilized absorbent boom to soak up the material that soiled thawing sea ice on the north shore of Sarichef Island in the Bering Strait region, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation reported late Tuesday. The mysterious spill of an apparent petroleum substance with a gasoline odor was discovered last week near the village of Shishmaref. Sheening affected a 400-by-30-foot area, the DEC said in its most recent situation report. Representatives of DEC, the Coast Guard and the environmental services company Emerald Alaska were at the site on Friday and Sunday working to mop up the sheen, said the DEC's Paul Lhotka, one of the officials sent to the site. The spilled material was on top of the ice and is being released into the water as the ice thaws, Lhotka said Wednesday. For now, the identification of the material, its source and the amount released are unknown, he said. "We did walk the shoreline and we didn't see anything obvious," he said. A local responder with hazardous materials training has been hired to monitor the site and continue cleanup efforts, Lhotka said. The Coast Guard has also taken a sample of the spilled material for laboratory identification, according to DEC.
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By YERETH ROSEN