DEC maps Tesoro fuel spill

Soil cleanup effort expected to take time

Posted: Sunday, August 05, 2001

Preliminary borings suggest a spill from the pipeline from the Tesoro Alaska refinery in Nikiski to Anchorage has contaminated about two acres of soil, a state official said.

"That's the initial delineation," said Leslie Pearson, on-scene coordinator for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. "They did borings around the perimeter to get an idea of the size. They haven't done anything in the heart (of the spill area) where the dead grass is."

State officials said the leak was discovered Tuesday night when Phillips Petroleum Co. workers found jet fuel on the ground near the buried Tesoro pipeline. The spill site is near Mile 35 Kenai Spur Highway -- about 13.75 pipeline miles from the refinery. It lies a couple hundred yards from the highway, between Bishop Creek and the Swanson River and inside Captain Cook State Recreation Area.

The 10-inch-diameter pipeline, which carries gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, was still shut down Friday, though on Wednesday, workers had installed a temporary sleeve to stop a mist of fuel spraying from three pinhole leaks. Pearson said a better sleeve -- with which workers hope to make a permanent repair -- arrived Friday. Workers were just preparing to install it when she left the spill command center late Friday afternoon.

Cleanup workers had already dug a ditch to intercept fuel flowing from the site of the leak toward a small unnamed stream that drains into Bishop Creek. They were using vacuum trucks to collect contaminated water and free-floating fuel. Pearson said they had just vacuumed the ditch the last time she looked, but more fuel already was running in. It already had pooled a quarter-inch deep in the bottom of the ditch, she said.

"They're taking contaminated water to the refinery and putting it in a tank to separate, so they can remove the fuel from the surface and we can count how much is recovered," she said.

By Friday afternoon, they had recovered 1,700 gallons of contaminated water. The amount of fuel that contained had not been determined.

Pearson said cleanup workers also had excavated 80 cubic yards -- eight dump truck loads -- of contaminated soil, mostly from the ditch dug to expose the pipe and find the leak. Five cubic yards were stockpiled at the refinery for treatment. The rest was stored at the spill site, covered against rain and separated from the soil by a liner.

"They're going to submit a site characterization plan to us, including soil sampling," she said. "We'll review that. They're also looking at establishing a temporary road to the site to minimize impact to the land."

Contingent on approval from Alaska State Parks, workers will build a gravel road, she said. When the cleanup is finished, they will remove the road or negotiate its final status with Parks.

"The emphasis over the weekend is going to be recovering contaminated fluids from the trenches and seeing how much free product we can get," she said. "Hopefully, they'll get the road in, delineate the site and start digging next week. It's going to take some time to get it all cleaned up. I can assure you that."

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