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Human error blamed for 22,000-gallon spill at Savoonga tank farm

  • Author: Zaz Hollander
  • Updated: March 15, 2018
  • Published March 15, 2018

The tank farm at the Savoonga Native Store sits under snow Wednesday. A 22,000-gallon diesel spill Wednesday isn’t expected to escape containment. (Savoonga Native Store)

About 22,000 gallons of diesel spilled at the Savoonga Native Store early Wednesday morning.

The spill is expected to be contained in the store's fenced tank area, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation said.

Savoonga, with a 2010 population of just under 700, is located on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea.

The spill happened at around midnight Wednesday and was reported at 11:30 a.m., according to a DEC situation report. The cause of the spill was listed as "human error" during the transfer of fuel from a 26,500-gallon storage tank to a 3,000-gallon day tank.

Operators shut down fuel transfer, the update says. The tank area is believed to be diked and lined to contain spilled fuel.

Now the difficult job of recovering all that spilled diesel starts.

The bottom of the tank farm is probably gravel with a liner below it and a low area or sump, said Tom DeRuyter, DEC's on-scene coordinator for the agency's northern region. The store will have to pump the oil back into an empty tank, but also take care to filter out water and debris from all the snow it's mixed with.

A DEC staffer is headed to Savoonga to make sure the information on the spill is correct, make sure cleanup is being done safely and no fuel escaped containment, and help if needed, DeRuyter said.

The store experienced a spill in 2012 that was also due to a tank overfill, he said.

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