Fuel spills at Anchorage airport when backhoe strikes pipeline

Posted: Sunday, September 09, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Gasoline leaked out of a Tesoro fuel pipe Friday at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport after a backhoe struck the underground line while digging a trench.

The 8 a.m. accident left a one-inch gash in the 10-inch line, according to investigators with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

Tesoro officials estimated the spill at 50 to 100 gallons. Company spokesman Ron Noel said workers clamped a temporary sleeve on the damaged pipe section at about 11:30 a.m., plugging the leak. Tesoro also began the cleanup work, which will include removing contaminated soil.

A high-pressure replacement sleeve has been ordered, Noel said. It will be welded on the line, which transfers gasoline, jet fuel and diesel fuel from Tesoro's Nikiski refinery to the airport and the Port of Anchorage.

At the time of the accident, the fuel was being moved to the Port of Anchorage, said DEC investigator Bob Petit.

The spill occurred between the airport's north/south runway and a taxiway at the north end of the airport. Petit said the gasoline pooled in the excavated section near the pipeline.

''I could see the fuel shooting out, but it wasn't a huge stream,'' Petit said.

Project officials said it's unclear why the work area wasn't marked to indicate the presence of the pipe, which is two feet below ground. Dave Berg, the field project engineer, said the project contractor had reviewed underground utility locations.

Berg said the oversight is being investigated.

The backhoe driver was digging a trench for an electrical duct bank. Berg said the work is part of a federally funded project by the state Department of Transportation for taxiway improvements.

Friday's spill is the second involving the pipeline in less than two months.

A leak was discovered July 31 about 14 pipeline miles from the refinery inside Captain Cook State Recreation Area. The pipeline was shut down for four days while workers found the problem and welded a sleeve over three pinhole leaks discovered at a weld.

Tesoro officials said cleanup workers collected 35,000 gallons of contaminated water, recovering 500 gallons of fuel from it. Workers brought 120 cubic yards of contaminated soil from the spill site to the refinery.

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