Rural Alaska

Thousands of gallons of diesel fuel spilled at tank farm in Arctic village

The North Slope Borough is responding to a diesel fuel spill, estimated at 18,000 gallons, that occurred at a tank farm in Point Lay on Wednesday morning.

The spill is contained and remains under investigation, but it looks like a failed valve in a pump might have been the cause, according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

“It has not escaped into the environment,” said Kimberley Maher, northern region manager for the department’s Prevention, Preparedness and Response Program. “Right now, the fuel is all contained and not moving out of the bermed area.”

The four big tanks at the bulk fuel storage facility in Point Lay are surrounded by berms that create a secondary containment, Maher said.

The North Slope Borough — the primary responsible party — is checking the perimeter around the spill every four hours during the day, “just to ensure that the berms of the secondary containment are holding, and nothing is escaping into the environment,” Maher said. Borough employees are also pumping fuel into temporary storage tanks.

The Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Coast Guard are monitoring the situation but haven’t sent anybody to Point Lay because the borough is responding, Maher said.

The tank farm, associated with the borough’s Public Works Department, stores and dispenses fuel oil for power generation, home and facility heating and equipment operation. The facility also provides diesel and gasoline to retail consumers for use in cars.

The last leak at the Point Lay tank farm was reported in May and was estimated at 36 gallons, according to the department’s database.

Alena Naiden

Alena Naiden writes about communities in the North Slope and Northwest Arctic regions for the Arctic Sounder and ADN. Previously, she worked at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.