Series of failures contributed to Alaska oily water spill

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A succession of mechanical failures led to a persistent spill of oily water in Port Valdez that lasted nearly two weeks, officials said.

By the end of last week, crews had recovered 14 barrels of oil from a contained area near a boat harbour at the Valdez Marine Terminal, The Anchorage Daily News reported.

More than 240 people are involved in the response to the spill of North Slope crude oil discovered on April 12. The amount of oil spilled is unknown.

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“The outflow is currently discharging high volumes of snow melt and rain water with a minor sheen being recovered from the tanks,” according to the spill incident management team.

The team consists of terminal operator Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Coast Guard.

There were three failures that led to the spill, Kate Dugan of Alyeska said.

A valve in a pipe near a collection well failed to work. The pipe is part of a pipeline system that carries ballast water and water from the well.

Debris in the valve prevented full closure.

Finally, a pump should have engaged to deliver the liquid in the collection well into the ballast water system as the level of oily water rose. A water-level indicator failed to activate the pump, Dugan said.

A single problem normally causes a spill, said Graham Wood, manager of the prevention, preparedness and response program with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.


“It’s not common for a series of misfortunes” to be the cause, Wood said.

Wood said the response is on track and declined to discuss possible future enforcement actions.

The Associated Press

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