Oil spill halts harbor traffic

500 gallons of diesel at Tee Harbor marina could hurt salmon fry

Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2001

Boats were barred from leaving a Tee Harbor marina this morning after a fuel line ruptured Wednesday night, spilling about 500 gallons of No. 2 diesel fuel into the water.

Lt. Cmdr. Joe Paitl of the Coast Guard's Marine Safety Office said an estimated 75 to 100 boats are moored there.

"We are shutting down traffic to the marina; we don't want oiled boats getting out before they are cleaned, and we don't want new boats oiled," Paitl said. "It's going to be an extensive effort cleaning the boats, wiping them down with sorbent pads."

Boat movement also could destroy a containment boom placed on the water to limit the spread of the oil, he said.

The spill is the second in Juneau waters this week. A spill at Auke Bay on Tuesday morning put about 400 gallons of diesel into the water.

At Tee Harbor, a line from a 2,000-gallon tank ruptured about 11 p.m. Wednesday and the spill was reported by Donohue's Marina at 18216 Point Stevens Road.

"The first thing they did after the alarm was to cut off the supply to the fuel line," said Petty Officer Darrell Wilson of the U.S. Coast Guard. "They put out boom to keep it from spreading and then put sorbent material out to collect as much as they could."

Paitl of the Marine Safety Office expects 30 to 35 percent of the fuel can be recovered, which is average for this particular petroleum product.

"It is so light that a lot of it dissipates before they can clean it up," said Wilson.

The amount of fuel collected from the Tee Harbor spill is "a rough estimate because a lot depends on the weather, the winds and the tides," Paitl said. "We had a 50 percent recovery on the Auke Bay spill, but we had almost ideal conditions: An outgoing tide and an incoming wind, with sunny skies."

He said there were no reports of oiled wildlife or fish killed by the spill.

Bob Mattson of the state Department of Environmental Conservation's Division of Spill Prevention and Response said the agency is still in the emergency response phase.

"We are beefing up containment. And we have asked Elizabeth Haffner, the responsible party, owner of the marina, to take over the cleanup," Mattson said this morning. "Speed is everything in an oil spill. If cleanup doesn't happen fast enough, the federal government will take it over."

Since the investigations that followed the Exxon Valdez oil spill, it has become known that petroleum products affect fish fry and shellfish at very low concentrations.

"This (spill) is bad news. It's going to be damaging," said Mark Schwan, area manager for the sport fish division of the state Department of Fish and Game. "A number of salmon mill around in that harbor on their way to Eagle River or Auke Bay or farther up Lynn Canal, and certainly Dolly Varden-char are in there as well as a number of rearing fish (this year's out-migration of fry). There would be lots of juvenile salmon there, but I don't know the impact of a spill."

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at achandonnet@juneauempire.com.

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