A pump used to funnel fuel into boats severed spilling thousands of gallons of gasoline in a harbor in Southern Alaska Saturday, state officials said.
Just around 5,500 gallons of gasoline leaked, said Sarah Moore, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) coordinator for pollution incident response in Southern Alaska. Workers at the small harbor in Kake, a town with a population of about 500, had discovered the incident Saturday morning after noticing a strong odor of gasoline, Moore said.
“It’s certainly a significant volume,” Moore said of the size of the spill, adding the DEC has not yet received any reports of oiled wildlife. “There have been some concerns raised about clam and geoduck beds near the area, so I’m working with the Environmental Health division on that.”
The spill occurred after a hose running underneath the fuel dock — likened to a gas station for boats — ended up damaged, apparently due to changes in tide and wind overnight. The hose connected to a 7,000-gallon gasoline tank onshore, causing gas to flow through the hose and into the water. Moore said the fact the spill was of pure gasoline rather than oil would make cleanup a little more dangerous at first, but ultimately easier to accomplish.
“Gasoline spills are really very different from petroleum spills because of the flammable nature of gasoline, so our primary concern on Saturday was that the people were safe and that there wasn’t anything done to introduce a spark into the flammable environment,” she said.
Local firefighters used what Moore called a “vapor mist,” essentially spraying water on top of the gasoline, to clean up and drive fumes away from Kake. Emergency responders did not collect the spilled gas. Moore said the biggest priority for the DEP is to keep the gas fumes out of the air so they don’t blow into town with the wind, which would be an explosion hazard. Because gas is such a light product, 90 percent of it would evaporate within a 24 hour period so long as the spill stayed on the surface of the water, she said.
“Our number one concern is always safety of people, and then safety of the environment,” she said. “We want to make sure we don’t put anyone in danger to clean up a fuel spill.”
The U.S. Coast Guard released a statement Saturday saying they “secured” the area and they would continue to “monitor and coordinate response” to the situation.