Spill response efforts at Port Valdez are continuing nearly a month after discovery of an oil sheen at the Valdez Marine Terminal. Some boom has been removed, and shoreline cleanup has begun in oiled areas within the primary containment boom.
The cause of the spill remains under investigation, with early indicators suggesting the Alaska North Slope crude oil/water mixture leaked from a sump that overflowed.
Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation officials said that having determined that the threat of the spill of a mixture of crude oil with water is now limited, the spill management process is looking to scale back while continuing its response to finish the cleanup.
Primary containment boom remained in place around the spill outflow area, shoreline impact surveys were completed, and limited impacts were observed with no areas outside of the Valdez Marine Terminal’s shoreline.
Boom had previously been deployed to protect the Solomon Gulch Hatchery, the Valdez Duck Flats, Saw Island and Seal Island. Responders concluded that these sensitive areas were no longer at risk for exposure to oil and protection boom was removed from the Solomon Gulch Hatchery and Valdez Duck Flats. Protection boom for Saw Island and Seal Island was approved for removal next.
The latest DEC update on the cleanup said that oil skimming operations had removed 53,340 gallons of oily water and that 665 gallons of oil had been recovered. The primary containment boom was adjusted to contain the spill closer to the spill outflow area. The bigger boom was still in place to maintain the outer perimeter of the boomed areas and was being monitored to ensure adequate containment. Response crew were continuing oil skimming operations and use of sorbents for passive recovery.
Efforts were in place to make sure that Berth 5 remains clear of sheen to that tankers can be loaded safely. Berth 4 was determined to have not been impacted by the spill and reopened for tanker loading. Tanker docking and undocking has resumed normal operations, as overflights and surveillance by vessels observed no sheen at the berth cargo loading areas.
Oil has not been seen outside of the terminal berth area. Wildlife has been observed near the spill area, with one oiled Kittiwake, one deceased gull and three deceased Kittiwakes reported.