Cause of large sheen on Kenai River remains a mystery

Posted: Thursday, September 06, 2001

SOLDOTNA (AP) -- State environmental investigators are trying to determine the cause of an oil sheen that showed up on the Kenai River.

The source of the sheen was a storm drain that washed a large amount of an oily substance into the river from a submerged pipe following heavy rain on Tuesday. The outfall pipe runs beneath the Sterling Highway bridge in Soldotna.

The substance created a rainbow sheen that stretched a half mile down the state's premier fishing stream Tuesday afternoon. The contamination drifted downstream from about 12:30 to 6 p.m., according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Gary Folley, a state environmental specialist, said on occasion he's seen a light sheen emerge from the pipe, but never such a thick, constant flow. The sheen broke up and dissipated in the current.

''It had an odor resembling diesel fuel,'' he said.

The cause remained a mystery Wednesday.

''Basically, it stopped when the rain stopped,'' said Folley, who also investigates the increasingly frequent oil and fuel leaks from Cook Inlet's maze of industrial pipelines.

Tuesday's heavy rain may have washed oily residue from that freshly laid asphalt into the river, said Bill Pool, the area's transportation foreman. But Folley said the quantity of the pollution made him doubt that theory. Anyone with tips or clues was being asked to call DEC at 1-907-465-5065.

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