Officials say an estimated 5,500 gallons of unleaded gasoline spilled into the water Saturday in the small Southeast community of Kake.
Kake Tribal Fuel reported the spill around 11 o’clock Saturday morning. “Kake Tribal Fuel noticed on Saturday when they went to open up their facility that there was a strong smell of gasoline and it led them to discover there had been a ruptured fuel line underneath their floating dock,” said Sarah Moore, the state’s on-scene coordinator with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation in Juneau.
Moore said the initial amount reported spilled was 7,000 gallons, however, the corporation estimates its probably closer to 5,500 gallons. “Saturday morning when they first called it in they were saying there was a rainbow sheen of 100 yards and along the protected areas right around the fuel dock you could see free product,” Moore said.
The Coast Guard reported all vessels were removed from the harbor and police secured the area. Coast Guard petty officer Jeffry Crews said first responders in Kake initially put out containment booms around the spilled gas. “But unfortunately that’s not very safe to do with gasoline,” Crews said. “It’s a very volatile oil and very dangerous to try and contain. So the state and the US Coast Guard advised them to remove the boom and keep any vehicles or anything that could potentially ignite a spark away from the gasoline. And then we had them lay down fire suppressant fog with fire hoses on the big clumps of gasoline to try and break it up and keep the fumes down.”
Crews said it’s possible the flexible fuel line broke because of high wind and wave in the area but the cause of the leak is under investigation. He said the bad weather also disbursed the spilled fuel. “The tide and the wind and the currents all conspired to carry pretty much everything out to sea. So we didn’t have much to collect anyway. Because the weather conditions which were pretty bad on Saturday did a really good job of evaporating the product or taking it out to open water where it was gonna evaporate faster.”
The Coast Guard plans to respond to Kake to investigate.
A phone call to an official with Kake Tribal’s fuel operation was not returned. DEC is recommending that no one in Kake collect shellfish from the area immediately around the fuel dock.