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Oil Spill Being Cleaned With Targeted Flooding

Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation

Fairbanks, AK - Water is being used to flush fuel out of the tundra, where a tanker truck rolled off the Dalton Highway earlier this month.  The Nana Corporation truck is estimated to have leaked in excess of 2,500 gallons of fuel near milepost 299, about 110 miles south of Deadhorse. Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation on scene coordinator Tom DeRuyter says the sloped spill area is being flooded with water.

"When the fuel left the truck it went down into the tundra matte and the duff that's below that. The ice layer, the area that's still frozen, is down about 3 to 6 inches below the tundra matte," he said. "So most of the fuel is contained in the upper layers, and what we've been trying to do is to flood the area to move the fuel out of the tundra down to collection areas."
DeRuyter says the 2.7 acre spill zone is being treated one section at a time. "We put up what's called shore-sealed boom. The shore-sealed boom is a series of tubes that are all connected, that are filled with water so that they're heavy and they conform to the ground and they form a barrier, so as the water floods down into them it builds up behind," he said.

Deruyter says the lighter than water fuel floats to the surface and is mopped up with absorbent material. Over 300 bags of oiled sorbents had been collected as of Monday. DeRuyter says tundra samples are tested to determine the remaining level of fuel contamination. "Checking to see if some of the volatiles of the diesel are still coming off of there. Trying to get it down to a given level before we stop the flooding and flushing process," he said.

DeRuyter says about one fifth of the spill area had been treated as of Tuesday, and could not estimate how much longer the cleanup would take. He adds that bear, fox, squirrels and birds have been spotted in the area, but have been kept out of the spill zone.        

Dan has been in public radio news in Alaska since 1993. He’s worked as a reporter, newscaster and talk show host at stations in McGrath, Valdez and Fairbanks. Dan’s experience includes coverage of a wide range of topics, from wolf control to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and dog mushing.