The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

Editor, Valdez Star 

Oil traffic returns to Port Valdez Tuesday after mishap across the bay

Check valve failure leads to crude oil spill into waters at the terminal


September 27, 2017

Steve Revis photo

Responders were still tending booms placed along the shore on Dayville Road - protecting the fish hatchery after a spill from Berth 4 at the nearby Valdez Marine Terminal.

Emergency responders sprang into action Thursday morning after a pressure test went wrong, and a sheen of oil began to spread from the terminal.

"The cause is under investigation, but early indicators show a check valve in the firewater system may have failed during a pressure test, allowing the contents of a berth loading arm to drain through the firewater system," the Dept. of Environmental Conservation said shortly after the event.

An oily sheen was contained around Berths 4 and 5 at the Valdez Marine Terminal.

Local fishing vessels under contract with SERVS worked around the clock alongside other response vessels to ensure the spill did not endanger wildlife or reach the shores along Allison Point, the hatchery on Dayville Rd. or the Duck Flats.

"There are no observed areas of concentrated oil on the water; task forces are focusing on rainbow sheens inside the containment," Alyeska said in a prepared statement when it was announced that at least 400 gallons of contaminated water with an oil mix had been recovered.

Water-based responders were still on the scene early this week to maintain the security of the booms placed around environmentally sensitive areas such as the Solomon Gulch Hatchery

Alyeska claimed that all sheens remained within containment.

"There are some shoreline impacts on the Valdez Marine Terminal inside containment, and crews will perform an assessment to determine a plan for cleaning the area," the company said. "Wildlife specialists are closely monitoring the affected area, and have not observed any affected wildlife. Surveys will continue through the response."

Alyeska said responders had placed more than 23,000 feet of boom and that up to 25 vessels were on the water aiding the response.

"Thirteen Vessels of Opportunity are on scene assisting with oil recovery operations, wildlife and shoreline assessment, safety and resupply efforts," the company said. "There was a responder who reported a medical issue on Friday. An evaluation determined that the issue was not related to response activities."

Photo courtesy Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.

An overhead view of the area between Berths 4 and 5 on the Valdez Marine Terminal shows the narrow area where remaining sheen is in front of the Main Firewater Building, the structure onshore, lower left.

Vessels were decontaminated at the terminal's small boat harbor, which included the placing of boom around the vessels.

"Any oil will be skimmed out of the containment before the vessel is deemed clean and released," the company said.

A task force was also mobilized to "perform decontamination of three large tug boats and support cleaning of oiled berth pilings" and an " incident investigation to determine the root cause of the spill is ongoing."

The company said it is working with both federal and state officials, plus the owners of TAPS (Trans-Alaska Pipeline System) and marine shippers.

Normal tanker traffic resumed Monday.


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