Mysterious diesel fuel spill at Unalaska boat harbor

Workers with the oil response contractor Chadux skimmed diesel fuel from the waters surrounding the Carl Moses boat harbor on Wednesday afternoon. (Photo by Greta Mart/KUCB)
Workers with the oil response contractor Chadux skimmed diesel fuel from the waters surrounding the Carl Moses boat harbor on Wednesday afternoon. (Photo by Greta Mart/KUCB)

Local Coast Guard personnel are investigating a diesel fuel spill at the Carl E. Moses boat harbor.

The spill was discovered on Monday afternoon, when the crew of a neighboring vessel noticed it and notified the Coast Guard’s Dutch Harbor office.

According to Supervisor Lt. Bill Fitzgerald, after an initial investigation, unit personnel weren’t able to determine who caused the spill or precisely when an estimated  “couple hundred gallons” went into the water, he said.

“It’s hard to tell,” how much fuel had spilled, said Fitzgerald, adding that since the spill was reported, the slick has “somewhat dispersed.”

The cold weather has prevented much of the fuel from evaporating, and as of Wednesday afternoon, a crew from the oil spill response organization Alaska Chadux was still on the scene, skimming the fuel from the water’s surface and surrounding it with containment boom. Fitzgerald said the Chadux crew was “picking up what they can.”

Vessel traffic in and out of the marina was restricted for a period on Monday as the Coast Guard investigated and launched a cleanup effort.

Fitzgerald said it is a crime to intentionally discharge fuel or oil into the harbor’s waters, but at this point, Coast Guard personnel don’t know if the diesel fuel went into the water accidentally or on purpose. If investigators do discover the spill’s source, those responsible would be required to pay for response efforts, up to three times the cost. They could also be subject to civil penalties or fines.

Many of the large fishing vessels berthed in Unalaska carry insurance to specifically cover such spills.