Oil Spilled at Valdez Marine Terminal

A faulty check valve at Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.’s Valdez Marine Terminal is believed to be the culprit in a crude oil spill at Valdez, Alaska, on September 21, which has proven larger than anticipated.

An updated report from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) on September 26 noted that ADEC was continuing to monitor response actions and work with the US Coast Guard and Alyeska on waste management and decontamination plans. Early indicators show that oily water in the oil loading system may have drained through the berth firewater system during a pressure test, the agency said.

Response to the spill, estimated at up to 100 gallons of crude oil, continued around the clock, with Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. reporting by September 23 that crews in the field had recovered an estimated 400 gallons of an oily water mix.

Response teams had deployed more than 23,000 feet of boom, and more than 25 vessels were on the water responding, as of September 23. There were no reports of wildlife being impacted by the spill.

Meanwhile, ADEC and the U.S. Coast Guard, along with the Ship Escort/Response Vessel System were scrambling to clean up an oil sheen in the terminal area.

The sheen was noted shortly before noon on September 21 and by midnight booming was completed in two sensitive areas of the Port of Valdez, the Solomon Gulch Hatchery and Valdez Duck Flats, said Kate Dugin, Alyeska’s spokeswoman. There were no reports that the sheen had reached either area, but they were boomed because they are both considered to be environmentally sensitive, she said.

“We recognize and share the public’s concerns and are activating all available resources, including pre-staged equipment around Port Valdez, to respond to the incident and protect the environment and surrounding community,” Alyeska said in a statement. The Valdez Star skimmed the north of the Valdez Marine Terminal with five vessels, pulling some 1,700 feet of absorbent boom, and wildlife personnel were on the water, equipped to respond, the company said.

On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in Prince William Sound when the Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker owned by Exxon Shipping Co., struck Bligh Reef shortly after midnight, spilling 10.8 million gallons of crude oil. The incident is considered one of the most devastating environmental disasters ever caused by people and resulted in efforts to assure prevention of further spills and to have emergency responders in place in the event of any other spills.