Clean-Up Continues for Norton Sound Hospital Fuel Spill

Clean-up efforts continue beneath Norton Sound Regional Hospital after a spill of hundreds of gallons of heating fuel.

Tom DeRuyter is the State On-Scene Coordinator with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. In a status update Tuesday, he said, “They’re removing the contaminated soil as much as possible right now. But it is right next to the building and next to the pilings, so we do not want to destabilize the structural supports on the building.”

(Photo via KNOM)
(Photo via KNOM)

A report from the DEC says 600 cubic feet of soil has been removed so far.

Last week, anywhere from 800 to 1,200 gallons of fuel leaked from the hospital tank farm after a fill valve failed, causing a fuel tank to overflow. The hospital estimates the spill covers 2,500 square feet of land.

“When the discovered the overfill, they shut off the power,” DeRuyter said, “and that effectively controlled the source and stopped the release.”

The Norton Sound Hospital did not respond to requests for comment. But a report from the DEC says those inside the hospital could smell a “diesel odor” during the spill. As of Monday, “indoor air monitoring [has shown] no evidence of diesel vapors inside the” building.

“Fortunately,” DeRuyter said, “the hospital is built on pilings, so there’s plenty of air movement underneath the building, and that mitigates the problems that can be associated with indoor air quality.”

Hospital staff laid absorbent pads and boom to soak up pooled fuel following the spill. The DEC report says, whether or not groundwater has been contaminated is unknown, and there have been not reports of wildlife being affected by the spill.

Air monitoring and excavation of the site is ongoing.