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ADEC searching for source of underground oil spill on Douglas
Published: 10/18/2012 17:45:00
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is currently looking for the source of a oil spill on Douglas Island. A resident in West Juneau reported a fuel smell from a small creek that emerges from culverts near Nowell Avenue in July. ADEC responders have been trying to find the source of the underground oil spill ever since.

Sarah Moore is an environmental program specialist with ADEC, she told us about the case: "Our first step always is to contact the property owners in the neighborhood and to ask them about their fuel tanks, whether or not they are above ground or below ground fuel tanks. We offer to come out and look at their above ground tanks just to make sure that there's no problem, though normally a home owner is aware if their above ground tank is leaking. And then for underground tanks we ask if they can allow us to come on and check for water in their tank, because water can be an indication that the underground tank is leaking."

Because it's under ground, the source of this spill is hard to find.

"We've checked all the tanks in the neighborhood to see if they were leaking, none of them have obvious indications. We've been dying fuel tanks with a special fuel dye, and then hoping that we'll see a colored fuel come out of the hillside. So far we haven't, so we're continuing our investigation, but every day DEC comes up here and changes out the absorbent materials to try to collect as much of the fuel as possible before it enters the creek" said Moore.

Underground fuel tanks are popular in Juneau, however they pose a hidden environmental and economic risk, and problems can go unnoticed for years according to ADEC Southeast Alaska state on scene coordinator Scot Tiernan: "Once a tank is underground, nobody how well it's holding up, if it's beginning to fail. and once a tank fails, it can leak for years before we finally discover that there's been a problem. But that time it can contaminate not only one person's yard, but maybe several different yards, or an industrial area or an environmentally sensitive area. So we would really like to encourage people that if they have an underground tank; to test it for water in the tank to see if there's any water coming in. But we really like to encourage people to remove the underground tank, take it out of service, and install an above ground tank because it's much better the environment. And also can save them a tremendous amount of money, because at the price of oil, oil leaking out of an underground tank can add up over the years."

By: Mikko Wilson -