Cleanup continues in oil spill at New Port Walter

Posted: Monday, November 27, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Cleanup crews have collected tar balls and other oil-soaked debris following a spill in an environmentally-sensitive area on Baranof Island, the Coast Guard said Sunday.

Crews filled about 20 large black garbage bags on Saturday and were continuing the work Sunday, said Lt. Comdr. Joe Paitl with the Coast Guard Marine Safety Office in Juneau.

While there have been no reports of dead wildlife, three cormorants were sighted that did appear to have oil on their feathers.

The source of the spill is an old steel storage tank located at an abandoned fish saltery on federal property in New Port Walter. Paitl said about 100 gallons remains in the tank, and between 500 and 1,000 gallons was spilled.

The spill was first noticed Nov. 18 by workers at a nearby research center run by the National Marine Fisheries Service, but bad weather prevented cleanup crews from getting to the site.

The workers noticed an oily sheen on the shore and tracked it back to the tank in the Tongass National Forest.

Mark Burger, an environmental specialist with the Department of Environmental Conservation, said the leak occurred when a seam in the tank gave way. The site was used as a salmon saltery from the 1880s to the 1930s.

With improved weather, two vessels carrying cleanup crews were able to get to the site Friday night.

Paitl said the Unified Command is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Alaska Raptor Center to try and mitigate the harmful effects of oil on wildlife.

Absorbent boom also was placed around saltwater pens containing juvenile salmon at the Little Port Walter National Marine Fisheries Service Research Station.

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