Rural Alaska

US Coast Guard takes over cleanup of Western Alaska diesel spill

A diesel fuel spill from a storage tank in the Western Alaska village of Kwigillingok this week was reported to be larger than first thought and approaching a river that feeds into Kuskokwim Bay.

As of Tuesday, state officials said, the spill’s leading edge was about 50 yards from the Kwigillingok river near the bay.

No wildlife has been reported in the spill area, which includes frozen tundra and a pond that’s not flowing into the river, according to a situation report update Tuesday from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

The spill, discovered by employees arriving at work on Feb. 8, resulted after fuel overflowed from a 10,000-gallon horizontal tank during a transfer operation, authorities say. The spill occurred at the Kwigillingok Inc. marina’s bulk tank farm.

Its size, originally estimated at about 6,467 gallons, was recalculated to 8,827 gallons based on facility oil records, the update said.

Crews with local village corporation Kwik Inc. were trying to clean up the spill with hand tools and small portable pumps because there was no heavy equipment in the village, according to the update. Several weather holds and 2 feet of snow that’s fallen since last week have slowed response efforts, it said. Crews reported recovering about 1,000 gallons of oil and oily water as of Tuesday.

The Coast Guard assumed control of the response last week and this week had two personnel on site — along with Kwik and representatives from oil spill response contractor Resolve Marine — “conducting additional plume delineation, drone imagery, and sampling for a more refined assessment of the spill and for development of mechanical recovery tactics,” the update said.


Coast Guard personnel from Anchorage are responding to the incident due to various factors including its proximity to the water, the sector’s incident management division chief Kyle Schmidt said in an email Wednesday. They are involved in unified command and are monitoring operations at the site, Schmidt said.

Kwigillingok is a village of more than 500 people on the western shore of Kuskokwim Bay on the edge of the Bering Sea, about 77 miles southwest of Bethel.