Investigation continues into downtown fuel spill


A NORTECH crew works on a Gastineau Channel beach on Thursday to clean up heating oil spilled from a vandalized tank at the Prospector Hotel. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

Local and state authorities believe a fuel spill at the Prospector Hotel over the weekend was intentional, but it’s unclear whether the incident was simple vandalism or an attempted theft that went awry.

Juneau Police Lt. Dave Campbell said someone removed an oil tank drain plug before 1 o’clock Saturday morning, spilling the tank’s contents over the concrete floor of the lower parking level.

“According to the manager, they’ve been having an ongoing issue with fuel being stolen from the property,” Campbell said.”They had installed a locking cap to prevent someone from siphoning any fuel out of the tank. After the locking cap got installed, there’s evidence that the drain plug had been pulled.”

Campbell said a hotel employee discovered the leak, put the plug back in place and contacted management, who then notified authorities.

Bob Mattson, an environmental specialist in the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s Prevention and Emergency Response Program, said about 300 to 350 gallons were spilled from the tank.

“I collected about 15 gallons that had not been collected in a low spot. The rest of it pretty much went out in the storm drain,” he said.

Capital City Fire and Rescue and the U.S. Coast Guard also responded to the incident.

Hotel guests’ vehicles were temporarily removed to allow for clean-up and ventilation of the garage. Prospector Hotel management hired contractor NORTECH, which flushed the storm drain during high tide.

Mattson said absorbent and containment boom was deployed around the storm drain outfall on the Gastineau Channel beach across Egan Drive.

There’s very little oil left on that beach. Just this one section, a small section about 10 to 20 square feet that I’m looking at. But it’s in the final clean-up phase right now.”

Before Thursday’s high tide, a NORTECH crew was still working on the beach which smelled of fuel. Mattson said diesel or heating oil are considered to be non-persistent oils that quickly evaporate and oxidize with exposure to the sun.

Mattson said the the Prospector Hotel is not at fault and no enforcement action will be taken.

As long you’re taking clean-up actions that are run by us, that we review and approve, ll we do, generally, is sit back and monitor and make sure things are going good. We can augment with state-owned resources such as we did here with our containment boom. Prospector Hotel has been very good. I don’t have any issues with their response.”

Mattson said last year in Juneau there were 20 small spills caused by tank corrosion, line corrosion, a malfunction in fittings, and even ice in a fuel filter. But none were intentional spills, related to vandalism, or what the state calls sabotage.

He said there was an intentional five gallon diesel spill in Ketchikan last year.

Recent headlines

  • dollar bill money macro

    Per diems driving special session costs

    Lawmakers who represent areas outside Juneau receive $295 for each day of the special session. Juneau lawmakers receive $221.25 per day.
  • Caroline Hoover proudly pins an Alaska Territorial Guard medal on the front of her father's parka during an official discharge ceremony held Oct. 17 in Kipnuk, Alaska. David Martin is one of three surviving members of the Alaska Territorial Guard's Kipnuk unit. A total of 59 residents of Kipnuk, who volunteered to defend Alaska in the event of a Japanese invasion during World War II, were recognized during the ceremony. Kipnuk residents who served with the Alaska Territorial Guard from 1942-1947 were members of a U.S. Army component organized in response to attacks by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor. (Photo by Jerry Walton, Department of Military and Veterans Affairs cultural resource manager and native liaison/public domain/Wikimedia Commons)

    16 Alaska Territorial Guard vets to be honored in Anchorage

    Sixteen veterans of the Alaska Territorial Guard will be honored at a discharge ceremony today. Four of them are from Western Alaska.
  • Don Andrew Roguska looks out from an upstairs window of an historic Juneau house he bought in 2016 to restore. Zoning regulations have prevented him from rebuilding in the same style. (Photo by Jacob Resneck/KTOO)

    Juneau mulls relaxing zoning rules for historic houses

    The historic houses in Juneau and Douglas were predominately built by miners and fishermen long before today's zoning was put into place. That's prevented homeowners from restoring or rebuilding homes in these neighborhoods without running into conflict with the city's zoning laws -- a temporary fix may be on the way.
  • Young joins Afghanistan war skeptics in Congress

    Alaska U.S. Rep. Don Young wants to know why Americans are still fighting in Afghanistan. He has co-sponsored a bill that would end funding for the war in a year, unless the president and Congress affirm the need for it.