Cleanup continues for Cook Inlet diesel spill

Clean up and assessment work continues following a diesel spill in southern Cook Inlet over the weekend. The vessel in question is currently tied up in Seldovia, on the southern Kenai Peninsula.

The 116-foot landing craft, Thor’s Hammer, was traveling from Seward to Bristol Bay when it encountered rough seas between Gore Point and Nuka Island, which is in Kachemak Bay State Park. Winds were reported in that area at 25 knots with seas to six feet Friday night.

Steven Russell is an environmental program manager with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. He says the vessel itself wasn’t damaged, but its cargo was.

“They had a 9,000 gallon tank trailer onboard the vessel and it moved,” Russell said. “It didn’t necessarily break loose, but it shifted and punctured the tank trailer in two places.”

He says crews attempted to make temporary repairs at sea. They then headed for the calmer waters near Flat Island and were met by response teams including the Coast Guard and DEC Saturday morning.

Russell says the crew considered taking the vessel to Port Graham Saturday evening for repairs, but due to limited facilities and logistics, they decided to go its larger neighbor, Seldovia, on Sunday instead.

“The vessel transited from the Gore Point, Nuka Island area to lower Cook Inlet and conducted additional repairs,” Russell said. “It’s estimated that in that transit, they lost approximately 6000 gallons of Number 1 diesel fuel.”

Russell says the nature of diesel fuel in that environment is that it would break apart and dissipate quickly, with no obvious remnants after about an hour.

He says the leaks on the tanker were secured Saturday and it is not producing a visible sheen from the deck.

Once in Seldovia, Thor’s Hammer was boomed off. On Monday afternoon, about 3000 gallons of diesel was offloaded from the damaged tanker.

The vessel is still tied up at the Seldovia City Dock where it’s being evaluated and decontaminated. It’s under the supervision of the U.S. Coast Guard and Alaska Chedux, a private contractor specializing in spill response and cleanup.

“That operation will continue until the Coast Guard and others are sure that the vessel is no longer a potential environmental threat,” Russell said. “We have seen no leakage from the vessel, no sheening from the vessel since it arrived in the southern Cook Inlet.”

Russell says the Department of Interior, National Marine Fisheries Service, and National Wildlife Service evaluated potential harm to wildlife in the area and found none.

“We had certain concerns about bird areas and seal and sea lions,” Russell said. Currently, we have had no indication that any wildlife has been affected by this.”

He says there are still a few unknowns like did the fuel gush out all at once in a single area after it was first damaged or did it seep out over the miles the vessel traveled to safe harbor.

The incident team is waiting for automated vessel tracking information to more closely pinpoint its route.

Russell says the Coast Guard, which is leading the operation, should release more information over the next few days.

No injuries, or damage to the vessel, have been reported.