The Coast Guard Takes The Lead On Spill In Western Alaska That Is Larger Than First Thought

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The U.S. Coast Guard has taken over the response to a diesel fuel spill from a storage tank in a western Alaska village that has crept toward a river.

The spill at a fuel tank farm in Kwigillingok was discovered Feb. 8 and occurred about 500 feet (167 yards) from the Kwigillingok River, the state Department of Environmental Conservation said. The river feeds into Kuskokwim Bay, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Original estimates put the volume of the spill around 6,467 gallons (24,480 liters) but that amount was recalculated to 8,827 gallons (33,413 liters) based on facility oil records, the agency said this week. As of Tuesday, the latest update, the agency said the spill’s leading edge was about 150 feet (about 45 meters) from the river.

The spill area includes frozen tundra and a pond that’s not flowing into the river, according to the agency.

Crews with a local village corporation used hand tools and small portable pumps to respond to the spill because there was no heavy equipment in the community, the agency said. Poor weather, including an additional two feet of snow since Feb. 14, had slowed their work. About 1,000 gallons (3,785 liters) of oil and oily water was recovered as of Tuesday, the state agency said.

The Coast Guard assumed control of the response last week and had personnel on site this week, along with the village corporation and a contractor.

Kwigillingok is on the western shore of Kuskokwim Bay on the edge of the Bering Sea.