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.

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