Aleut Corp. subsidiary settles Adak spill case for $700,000

ANCHORAGE — A fuel company serving Adak in the Aleutian Islands will pay a $500,000 civil fine and spend $200,000 on compliance measures for a spill that put more than 35,000 gallons of fuel into state waters, the Alaska Department of Law announced Tuesday.

Aleut Enterprise LLC, a subsidiary of Alaska Native regional corporation Aleut Corp., acknowledged it violated its oil discharge and prevention plan during the Jan. 11, 2010, spill, according to the department.

Assistant Attorney General Carole Holley said the company overfilled an underground fuel tank and was not prepared for the consequences. An alarm system was inoperable and valves in a secondary containment system were rusted open, allowing fuel to reach a creek.

“That was the problem,” she said Tuesday. “The containment was not adequate.”

As part of the settlement, the state dropped misdemeanor criminal charges against the company.

The fine and compliance measures are on top of payments the company made to repay the government for cleanup costs. Under that settlement, announced in September 2013, the company paid $272,875 to the federal government and $4,152 to the state, plus future oversight costs.

The operations manager for Aleut Enterprises in 2010, Michael Baker, pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts: violating the spill prevention plan and failing to test devices that should have detected fuel tank overfills. He was fined $2,000 and ordered to complete 40 hours of community service with an environmental group.

Messages left with Aleut Enterprises and with Baker’s attorney were not immediately returned Tuesday.

Adak is 1,200 miles southwest of Anchorage. Aleut Enterprise owns a fuel terminal on the island that is operated by its subsidiary, Adak Petroleum LLC. The storage facilities were built by the Navy in 1991.

The day of the spill, the tanker Al-Amerat was transferring fuel to an underground tank 27 feet tall and 174 feet in diameter.

As part of the company’s contingency plan, referred to as a “C-plan,” the maximum fill level was supposed to be 23 feet, 5 inches, or 90 percent capacity. When the spill was discovered, fuel had reached 26 feet, 6 inches, and more than 99 percent capacity.

Fuel spilled into secondary containment, which was supposed to send it to an oil-water separator. The fuel overwhelmed the separator and 35,469 gallons eventually flowed into Helmet Creek and Sweeper Cove, a small boat harbor.

The company was not using measures laid out in its C-plan, prosecutors said. An overfill alarm system had been inoperable since 2008. Valves leading to the oil-water separator were required to be closed during fuel loading but were rusted into an open position. Employees were not aware of the valves and didn’t try to close them, according to the charges.

The $200,000 in compliance measures will pay for employee training and inspections.

“There are various measures that Aleut is putting forward to make sure such a spill does not happen again,” Holley said.

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