The Kodiak Regional Aquaculture Association has been busy responding to an oil spill at the Kitoi Bay Hatchery on Afognak Island that took place last month. Approximately 1,200 gallons of oil leaked from a fuel transfer line at the hatchery, prompting a quick response from the KRAA.
Responders from Anchorage-based Alaska Chadux Corp. were hired to assist with the cleanup. They arrived at the site, approximately 30 miles north of Kodiak, on Nov. 23. They have been actively involved in cleanup efforts, and are expected to leave the spill site on Tuesday.
According to Trent Dodson, the association’s productions and operation manager, a problem was first noticed when staff attempted to send fuel from a large fuel tank to other tanks at the facility, a routine activity. But the fuel meters weren’t adding up, indicating a leak in one of the fuel lines.
Staff later discovered an oil sheen in Big Kitoi Creek, 100 yards from a fuel line. They located the source of the leak in a fuel line, and were able to repair the line and deploy 700 feet of containment boom around the area.
“We feel like the sheen has started to dissipate,” Dodson said. Absorbent materials and boom will remain in place to ensure oil is contained.
Once Chadux employees leave, KRAA employees will handle all maintenance and monitoring, until “we can say we’ve gotten everything,” Dodson said.
During the weekend, crews used green fluorescent dye and flushed water through the contaminated ground. The dye worked its way through the soil and into the containment area, but staff did not observe any increase in the release of fuel from the ground. According to Dodson, that might mean there isn’t much fuel left in the ground.
Following the initial clean-up effort, KRAA will likely employ an environmental consultant to examine the contaminated ground.
Staff have not observed any effects on wildlife, and the spill has not affected work at the hatchery. Hatchery employees are focused on hatch-work, which entails mainly indoor work, such as cleaning fish tanks after the fish hatch.
Dodson has served as the incident commander for a unified response team, which also includes representatives of the Coast Guard and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.
The team will reassess the situation on Dec. 9
Lt. Andrew Ready of the Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team said he has been happy with KRAA’s response to the spill.
“They are doing everything they can to mitigate the diesel that was released,” Ready said. “We’re starting to shift towards a maintenance mode in the response.”
Coast Guard representatives will visit the hatchery periodically to monitor the cleanup effort.
Lisa Krebs-Barsis, a supervisor for spill prevention and response with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, said that the response team will transition into a long-term monitoring phase.
“We will be working closely with KRAA to ensure that the impacts to the ground are also mitigated,” she said, adding that examining the ground contamination will be difficult due to the dense underground infrastructure at the hatchery, which won’t allow for extensive excavation.
“The bedrock is really close to the surface of the ground. That’s why it’s important for them to get a qualified environmental consultant to make some recommendations,” she said. “DEC will be conducting oversight to ensure that that part of the cleanup is concurrent with our regulations.”
The DEC has also requested that KRAA hire a qualified inspector to ensure that the rest of the facility’s pipelines are fit for use.
Krebs-Barsis said it’s impossible to predict how long the monitoring phase of the cleanup effort will last.
“Every spill is different, land spills especially. It’s really not possible to predict how long this monitoring phase is going to go on,” she said.