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    Diesel spill in Kwigillingok is 36% larger than first estimated, according to latest DEC report

    By Suzanne Downing,


    A spill of diesel heating fuel onto the frozen tundra at the village of Kwingillingok is now estimated to be more than 36% larger than it was in the first official estimate, which was done Feb. 12.

    The early estimate of the Feb. 7-8 spill put the amount at 6,467 gallons. It’s now thought that more than 8,827 gallons escaped the tank farm containment.

    “This estimate is based on tank inventory levels taken by Kwik Inc. tank farm operators before and after the transfer was shut down. The spill volume was recalculated to 8,827 gallons after the USCG [Coast Guard] and ADEC [Department of Environmental Conservation] personnel completed examinations of the facility oil records during the on-site investigation February 12, 2024,” according to a report by the Department of Environmental Conservation.

    The spill occurred after a worker at the Kwik Inc. tank farm apparently forgot to turn off a valve, and workers left the premises, after which oil poured onto the frozen tundra. It is considered human error.

    “The release was discovered after the Kwik Inc. staff returned to work on February 8, 2024. The Native Village of Kwigillingok reported the spill at 12:03 p.m.,” DEC said inits earlier report. The fuel that overflowed from a 10,000-gallon horizontal tank occurred during a tank-to-tank transfer operation.

    The state and Coast Guard arrived on Feb. 12 and DEC was able to deliver some cleanup materials from the City of Bethel’s cache of spill response items.

    The leading edge of the spill is now approximately 50 yards from the Kwigillingok River and no heavy equipment in th village to help with containment. Workers are using hand tools.

    “Kwik Inc. response work has been limited to recovery of free product with hand tools and small portable pumps. Resolve [Marine] is checking on availability and feasibility of mobilizing a compact excavator and/or skid steer from Kongiganak,” the DEC reported.

    The Coast Guard has determined there is an actual threat to the river and issued an administrative order for Kwigillingok Inc. and Kwik Inc. to find and fund an adequate response. But that response was deemed inadequate by the Coast Guard on Feb. 15, and the Coast Guard issued a notice of federal assumption, which means it is taking over the cleanup.

    Resolve Marine oil spill response contractor sent three personnel and the Coast Guard has two personnel on site conducting studies, including additional plume delineation, drone imagery, and sampling for a more refined assessment of the spill and for development of how it can be recovered from the soil. Resolve has also mobilized additional recovery materials on Feb. 19 from the company’s Bethel staging area.

    Kwik Inc. response operations have been slowed by several weather holds and accumulation of an additional two feet of snow since Feb. 14, the state reported. As of this latest report from DEC, issued over the weekend, approximately 1,000 gallons of oil and oily water has been recovered. It is unclear how much of the actual oil has been recovered.

    There have been no reports of injuries to Kwik Inc. personnel involved in the initial response operation, DEC said.

    Winter weather in the area is going to make cleanup difficult. The area is windy and snowy, with SE winds at 15 to 25 mph and snow of up to 1-3 inches forecast for Tuesday, with temperatures around 30 degrees.

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