State responds to two oil spills at Drift River in Cook Inlet

(Courtesy Photo/Peninsula Clarion) State regulators are monitoring two small spills at the Drift River Terminal Facility show here on March 24, 2009 where it sits about 22 miles from the summit of the Mount Redoubt volcano on the west side of Cook Inlet. The facility is operated by Hilcorp Alaska's Cook Inlet Pipe Line Company.
State regulators are monitoring two small spills at the Drift River Terminal Facility shown here on March 24, 2009, where it sits about 22 miles from the summit of the Mount Redoubt volcano on the west side of Cook Inlet. The facility is operated by Hilcorp Alaska’s Cook Inlet Pipe Line Company. (Photo courtesy Peninsula Clarion)

State regulators are monitoring the cleanup of two small oil spills at a storage site  on the west side of Cook Inlet.

The spills were discovered at the Drift River Terminal Facility, which is owned by the Cook Inlet Pipeline Company, a subsidiary of Hilcorp Alaska. 

Young Ha, of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, says the spills were found after the company began emptying two tanks for a once-a-decade inspection in late June.

Operators mistakenly transferred the oil through a fill line, into the wrong tank.

“Apparently in the past, no one knew that it was actually going into the 20-inch fill line and I guess all this time it was but no one caught that over, it looks like, several decades,” she said.

The company then shut down the tank the oil was being pumped into, without realizing the line still had oil moving through it.

After discovering the problem, operators shut down the line. Then, Ha says they went looking for leaks.

In early July,  inspectors found 14 gallons of crude pooled inside a valve box. Then, last week, they found an oil stain covering about 280 square feet of ground.

The company estimates about 28 gallons of oil contaminated the ground, but Ha said that could change.

“You have to really dig it up, dig up the soil. It could be more, it could be less,” she said.

Ha says, so far, there isn’t any evidence that the nearby Drift River was contaminated, or that any wildlife was affected.

Hilcorp bought the facility, and the company from Chevron in 2011. No one from the Cook Inlet Pipeline Company or Hilcorp returned calls on Wednesday. 

The company reported that it has already cleaned up the oil from the first spill. Ha says that it will have to dig up and dispose of the contaminated soil found from the second leak.

So far, she says, there isn’t any evidence that the nearby Drift River was contaminated, or that any wildlife was affected.

But, ADEC inspectors will be monitoring the cleanup process and testing on the line to ensure there are no further spills.

Rashah McChesney

Daily News Editor

I help the newsroom establish daily news priorities and do hands-on editing to ensure a steady stream of breaking and enterprise news for a local and regional audience.

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