Oil is still flowing into the water at the trans-Alaska pipeline terminal in Valdez

Response task forces of fishing vessels and self-propelled skimmers working to recover rainbow sheen at the Valdez Marine Terminal on Sept. 23, 2017. On April 13, 2020, a mixture of North Slope Crude and water was spilled under the snow at the terminal. (Photo courtesy Alyeska Pipeline Service Company)

Crews responding to an oil spill at the end of the trans-Alaska pipeline have recovered 32,000 gallons of a mix of oil and water from Port Valdez. On Sunday, oil was still spilling into the water. Response crews believe they’ve stopped the flow from an oil sump buried at the terminal, but beyond the sump, oil is flowing through the ground to the water.

Melissa McKenzie is a public information officer with the U.S. Coast Guard working as part of the response. She says crews are having a difficult time tracing the path of the flow.

“So part of what’s making this so challenging is this is a really rocky area near the low tide line, so that indicates that the flow path is actually below ground,” she said.

As part of the response, crews are excavating around the likely path the oil would take as it flows from the sump down to the water. McKenzie says crews are excavating in certain areas above the site where the oil is entering the water, but that job has been challenging as well.

“So we have snow removal crews clearing, they’re basically digging through snow, ice, dirt, and gravel while also having to be mindful of the pipes and other various lines that are below ground in the terminal,” she said.

Four birds have died in the area and crews have set up additional containment booms around a nearby hatchery and the Valdez Duck Flats. The pipeline continues to function normally and several oil tankers have used the terminal since the spill was first reported, about a week ago.

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