EPA, Alaska DEC Crews Cleaning Up Richardson Highway Diesel Spill

Excavator preparing a test hole on east side of the highway, December 15, 2014 (Photo/Engles-ADEC)
Excavator preparing a test hole on east side of the highway, December 15, 2014 (Photo/Engles-ADEC)

The Environmental Protection Agency and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation are working to clean up a diesel spill northeast of Valdez.

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The spill occurred Dec. 9 at Mile 48 of the Richardson Highway, when icy conditions caused a tanker truck operated by Alaska Petroleum Distributing, Inc. to slide off the road, where it rolled over, spilling 4,400 gallons of low-sulfur diesel into a currently-dry roadside creek bed.

Spill response began immediately, but the company had to cease its cleanup efforts just before Christmas, citing a lack of resources. EPA and Alaska DEC crews resumed the work Tuesday.

Excavated area at incident site, January 6, 2014 (Photo/Engles-ADEC)
Excavated area at incident site, January 6, 2014 (Photo/Engles-ADEC)

Steven Russell, an environmental program manager with the Alaska DEC, says the cleanup efforts are going well so far, but below zero temperatures are slowing things down.

“Twenty-below, things don’t move quite as quick as they do if it’s 30 above,” Russell said. “But, we anticipate that the cleanup effort will continue and will be successful.”

Alaska Petroleum Distributing, Inc. removed about 650 cubic yards, or about 25 semi-truck trailers-full of contaminated dirt. And the DEC anticipates the removal of about another 350 cubic yards.

Russell says cleanup and restoration work is expected to be complete in about 10 days.

“We need to get that dry creek bed back as close to the conditions that it was at before this event, because we do not want to lose stability on the roadway in the springtime when that area has significant water movement through it,” he said.

Russell estimates the cleanup will cost around $2.5 million, including federal funds and money already spent by Alaska Petroleum Distributing, Inc.

He says the DEC doesn’t anticipate any impact to fish in the area, but will continue to monitor the site over the next several months.