Cleanup continued Monday after a tanker truck passing through Cooper Landing crashed, spilling thousands of gallons of fuel into a pond across from the Kenai River.
Cleanup agencies say the worst has passed, but they expect a long process to determine just how much gasoline and diesel fuel have affected the area.
The truck was carrying fuel for Fisher Fuels in Big Lake to a gas station in Homer when it went off the highway and into a pond connected to the river Oct. 29. The tanker truck spilled more than 4,000 gallons of diesel and gasoline into the pond, halting traffic as crews began the cleanup process.
Jim Butler of Baldwin and Butler, LLP, is the project coordinator for the cleanup. He said the brunt of the load has been removed.
"There's no more mobile product," Butler said. "Fuel is not floating around. That's the primary objective. We are looking for what may have seeped into the soil. The liquid and solid waste have been recovered."
CH2M Hill, an environmental engineering firm in Anchorage, will be testing the quality of the water to determine how much contamination, if any, the fuel did to the pond and the nearby river. Then it will be able to say what happens next.
"We're planning to take samples tomorrow or Wednesday," said Win Westervelt, an engineer with CH2M Hill on Monday. "It will take 30 days to have a report."
He says his firm will look for signs of outflow to the river and come up with long-term ways to keep possibly tainted pond water from reaching the river.
"We may put some kind of hydraulic control on the culvert to limit the flow of water," Westervelt said. "Right now, they're doing day and night monitoring of the culvert. We'll probably scale back to daily monitoring."
Robert Peterkin is president of R and K Industrial, the company that has been monitoring water levels at the pond since the spill. He said his crews have been tending the booms in the pond and monitoring 24 hours a day.
Peterkin said a lot of the focus of the cleanup went into clearing the fuel off the ice on the pond and from the hole in the ice created by the the fuel truck.
"We're pretty lucky that the weather has cooperated with us," he said. "It hasn't snowed a lot and it was really warm. If that hole in the ice had frozen ... it would be really difficult for us."
Peterkin said his group and other agencies involved in the cleanup worked through a four-stage response plan that had to be signed off by Environmental Protection Agency and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. These stages included a 24-hour response time, a bulk recovery period, an overall site cleanup period and a demobilization period.
The first two stages, the most crucial, involved immediate containment and removal of spilled materials. Peterkin said these took place within the first 48 hours of the incident. The third phase involved actually mopping affected terrain and cleaning product from surface water. The demobilization period involved removing remaining product.
"I would say we're in the final stages of the cleanup," Peterkin said. "Recovered product (and product and water mixtures) was sent to Energy Recovery in Anchorage."
Butler said crews are changing to a more relaxed state of work and settling in for the next steps.
"Right now we're transitioning from emergency response phase to longer-term site characterization," Butler said.
This will involve collecting data from water and sediment samples. The information will then be evaluated against DEC soil and water levels.
"That's usually a more methodical process," Butler said. "Data will be collected over the next week to 10 days. At that point, a corrective active plan will be provided to the agencies and at that point a longer cleanup plan will be adopted."
Westervelt said his firm will inform the agencies involved what needs to be done, should a problem be discovered from sampling. What would follow, however, could be more difficult to place a time frame on.
"After site characterization, we'll look at any remediation for soil, sediment and surface water," Westervelt said. "That may mean removal of contaminated pond sediment or treatment of the pond water."
When asked what treatment of the pond water would entail, Westervelt could not say.
"It's too early to say."
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