A faulty shut-off valve contributed to the extent of Auke Bay fire; cleanup continues

Posted: Friday, September 24, 2004

A faulty shut-off valve caused more than 1,500 gallons of additional fuel to escape, adding to the vandalism that caused the fire Tuesday at Auke Bay, said Bob Cox, a spokesman for Petro Marine Services.

Up to 90 gallons of diesel and gasoline in the fuel lines should have spilled out instead of 1,600 gallons, Cox said. A rubber gasket in the shut-off valve to one of the company's diesel tanks deteriorated because it was not for petroleum use, he said. The manufacturer sent the wrong valve to Petro Marine, a petroleum marketing and distribution company based in Seward. The valves were shut and locked during the fire, Cox said.

Meanwhile, one side of the public boat launch was opened at 5 p.m. Wednesday and Petro Marine continues the cleanup effort with the U.S. Coast Guard and state Department of Environmental Conservation. The cleanup may end today, Cox said.

Petro Marine, a member of Southeast Alaska Petroleum Resource Organization, mobilized spill response personnel when the fire occurred, Cox said. They have collected about 300 gallons of fuel with absorbent pads, and laid booms to protect four freshwater streams where salmon continue to spawn, he said.

"People are still working hard and things are getting better everyday," said Scot Tiernan, an environmental specialist with the DEC.

Officials placed about 30 wooden stakes with attached aluminized tape near the streams to ward off birds attracted by spawning salmon, said Mike Jaynes, an environmental specialist with DEC.

Petro Marine is making arrangements to have boats washed and so far nine claims have been filed, Cox said. Boat owners can get claim forms from the Auke Bay Harbormaster's office.

"The terrorist threat is expected to be small, but how do you protect yourself from someone in your own community?" Cox said. "We certainly feel like we're the victims of vandalism and mischief and it's going to be costly."

Rickey Gottardi, 45, a boat resident at Statter Harbor in Auke Bay, was arrested Tuesday in connection with cutting the three fuel hoses and lighting the fuel on fire.

Gottardi allegedly cut the fuel lines with a knife and ignited the fuel with a blowtorch, according to the complaint filed by Assistant District Attorney Doug Gardner.

To help prevent another incident, the company plans to put a metal sleeve over the hoses, Cox said. Gottardi allegedly cut the hoses which run from three fuel tanks on the marina property, under the DeHart's Marina ramp and out to a fuel dock out in the marina. Petro Marine leases the dock from DeHart's but owns the fueling facility.

Cox expects the fueling dock to be available to boaters by mid-October.

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