Aleut Enterprise charged with criminal negligence in Adak fuel spill

Diesel accumulating behind first row of boom Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Diesel accumulating behind first row of boom Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The State of Alaska has filed criminal charges against Aleut Enterprise, a subsidiary of the Aleut Corporation, over a fuel spill in Adak.

The spill happened in January 2010, during a fuel transfer from the tanker Al Amerat to Adak Petroleum’s shore-based storage facility. A state investigation concluded that the fuel storage tank was overfilled, flooding a nearby stream.

Now, the state is alleging that Aleut Enterprise and Michael Baker, the facility manager, were to blame for the spill.

In the charging document, the state’s attorney writes, “Michael E. Baker was informed that the volume of fuel being put into tank N-7 exceeded the maximum fill level… and made the decision to continue filling the tank above that level.”

The state also alleges that required alarm systems were broken, along with the secondary fuel containment system. That equipment was supposed to capture runoff in the event of a spill, but the state alleges that the valves were rusted open, rendering it useless.

Both Aleut Enterprise and Baker are facing ten counts of misdemeanor criminal negligence. For Aleut Enterprise, each count carries a potential penalty of up to $500,000. For Baker, each count carries a potential penalty of up to $10,000 and a year in jail.

Neither the state nor Aleut Enterprise would discuss the case.

Just days before the criminal charges were filed, the state and federal governments settled a civil lawsuit with Aleut Enterprise over the incident. The company agreed to repay the government $277,000 in ‘past costs’ and do restoration work in Helmet Creek, the waterway that was contaminated by the spill. But the company did not admit any wrongdoing.

There’s an arraignment hearing set for August 7.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the potential fines the company and individual faces.

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