Approximately 1,200 gallons of oil leaked from a fuel transfer line at the Kitoi Bay Hatchery on Afognak Island on Wednesday.
Hatchery staff notified the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the Coast Guard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Alaska Department and Fish and Game regarding the fuel leak on Friday around 4 p.m.
The Kitoi Bay Hatchery, located approximately 30 miles north of Kodiak, is managed by the Kodiak Regional Aquaculture Association. According to Trent Dodson, the association’s productions and operations manager, a problem was first noticed on Wednesday when staff attempted to send fuel from a large fuel tank to other fuel tanks at the facility, a routine activity. But the fuel meters weren’t adding up, indicating a leak in one of the fuel lines.
The hatchery staff attempted to troubleshoot, but the majority of fuel pipelines are underground. On Friday afternoon, staff 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 absorbent boom and containment boom around the area. The damaged fuel line is one inch in diameter.
Alaska Chadux Corp., an Anchorage-based oil spill removal organization with a response hub in Kodiak, was hired to assist with reponse. Three Chadux staff members, along with representatives of the Coast Guard and the Department of Environmental Conservation, arrived at the hatchery Saturday morning to assess the situation. According to Dodson, they confirmed that the source of the leak had been correctly identified and repaired.
Dodson said the plan is to flush water through the contaminated ground to attempt to force the remaining fuel out of the ground and to the creek, where the response team will use a skimmer to separate the oil from the water and collect it in a fuel drum.
However, an attempt to bring a skimmer to the hatchery by boat Sunday morning failed due to choppy seas. Another attempt to transport the skimmer is planned for Monday morning.
Around 700 feet of containment boom has been deployed, going all the way around the peninsula of the hatchery. Workers deployed 300 feet of secondary boom around the mouth of the creek. Absorbent pads have been used to collect fuel and prevent it from spreading. Once the material is saturated, it is replaced. The saturated material is considered hazardous and is collected and kept onsite until it can be safely disposed.
Dodson said the cleanup will likely involve removal of soil in the contaminated area and prolonged monitoring and sensing.
“Luckily, it occurred at a time that there are no salmon in the creek,” he said, adding that many wildlife species are not present in the area at this time of year. However, the area does have resident populations of species, including ducks, sea lions and seals.
“We have been able to cordon it off so that it shouldn’t affect them,” he said, adding that he doesn’t expect the oil leak to hamper the hatchery’s activity.
Dodson said he does not expect the facility will be fined, given the long history of fuel tanks on the island and the quick response by the hatchery staff. He did say it might be necessary to investigate the remainder of the pipelines on the facility to ensure no future leaks occur.
The Kitoi Bay Hatchery infrastructure dates back to 1965, when the hatchery was built following the 1964 earthquake.
“I’m sure we’ll have a monitoring program for quite a while, but otherwise nothing will happen that will alter the way we operate the facility,” he said.
Dodson is the incident commander for the event and is cooperating with Lt. Andrew Ready of the Coast Guard and Lisa Krebs-Barsis, a supervisor for spill prevention and response in the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. Neither could be reached for comment at the time of print.
Under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, the hatchery is financially responsible for debris removal costs and damages resulting from the pollution incident. Federal actions will be limited to monitoring progress of the hatchery’s actions and providing guidance..
“Our job is to ensure the potential for pollution in this situation is mitigated,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Erik Patterson, command duty officer at Sector Anchorage Command Center, in a statement. “Our focus right now is to get a team on site to assess the situation and provide guidance for effective pollution response.”
Dodson has been working closely with Natasha Hayden, director of lands and natural resources for the Afognak Native Corp., which owns the land where the hatchery is located. Weather permitting, Hayden intends to travel to Kitoi Bay on Monday as part of the corporation’s involvement in the monitoring effort.
According to Malia Villegas, vice president of community investments for the Afognak Native Corp., the corporation was notified of the fuel spill on Friday afternoon.
“We will continue to engage with KRAA (the Kodiak Regional Aquaculture Association) to monitor the mitigation, cleanup, and future spill prevention efforts,” Villegas wrote in an email to the Kodiak Daily Mirror on Sunday. “We are grateful to have oil spill response professionals present in our region to deploy an emergency response plan rapidly.”