Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Fuel spill stains 16 yards of soil at Lutak Dock


On April 21, at about 10:30 a.m., 125 gallons of jet fuel spilled from a Delta Western truck rack onto the ground at Lutak Dock. The dock’s owner, the Haines Borough, didn’t find out about the spill until two days after the fact, and when it did, it wasn’t from those responsible.

Though Delta Western officials said they notified the state Department of Environmental Conservation “immediately” after the spill, the borough wasn’t contacted. The borough heard about the spill from DEC employee David Pikul two days later, according to manager David Sosa.

DEC environmental program specialist Bob Mattson said Delta Western reported a loading hose became disconnected while filling a fuel trailer. The spill contaminated 16 yards of soil.

“In terms of volume, it’s a medium-sized spill for Southeast Alaska. To put it this way, your average above-ground residential heating oil tank is 275 gallons,” Mattson said.

Mattson said he didn’t know Delta Western leased the Lutak Dock space from the borough, but brought the borough into conversations about the cleanup when that fact became apparent.

Initial cleanup involved removal of most of the contaminated soil, which was temporarily placed in lined cells on-site, Mattson said. Since then, DEC has worked with Delta Western and its consultant, Chilkat Environmental, to move the soil into 19 large “super sacks” until it can be treated and disposed.

A site characterization will follow the initial cleanup. It involves taking soil samples and testing groundwater to determine the horizontal and vertical extent of the contamination, Mattson said.

Site characterization will begin once Delta Western submits a work plan that is acceptable to DEC, Mattson said. Delta Western submitted a work plan, but DEC sent it back because it didn’t include groundwater testing, he said.

Once the site characterization is complete, DEC will analyze the results. “Based on that, we either do a case closure if it looks like they got all the contamination on their first pass, or recommend cleanup in different areas if lab samples find hot spots,” Mattson said.

Delta Western is liable for all the cleanup costs, and must also reimburse DEC for the time and work they put into monitoring the cleanup.

Since being notified of the incident, borough manager Sosa said he has held several conversations with Delta Western executives, including an April 30 conference call. Participating in the call were Delta Western executives Cheryl Fultz and Don Martin, as well as local employees Fred Gray and Mike Denker. Mayor Jan Hill and harbormaster Shawn Bell also listened in.

“During the call, Delta Western acknowledged their failure to notify the borough as is required by their Standard Operating Procedure and by the lease between the borough and Delta Western,” Sosa said.

“Delta Western agreed that in the future the notification process would require initial notification to the borough by local Delta Western employees, after which the borough would coordinate with their headquarters in Seattle.”

Delta Western said the spill’s cause is under investigation, but preliminary findings indicate human error and mechanical failure.

“The mechanical failure has been remedied. The human error component is being addressed now by enhanced training for all drivers at the truck rack including driver review of the equipment and procedures,” Delta Western said in a statement.


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