Alaska Digest

Posted: Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Decrease seen in Cook Inlet oil spills

KENAI - Oil pipeline operators in Cook Inlet have demonstrated improved performance over the past year in preventing spills, according to a citizen watchdog group.

The annual spill volumes have fallen from more than 50,000 gallons to less than 1,200 gallons per year, Cook Inlet Keeper said.

The group said new data shows some improvements and some areas that remain unchanged.

An earlier study in September 2002 said pipeline spills had released oil at an annual rate of 52,324 gallons. In the one-year update just released, that annual rate had fallen to 1,138 gallons.

In both reports, Unocal and Forest Oil were responsible for the largest spill volumes, but each showed significant improvement in the latest study in terms of volume. In that study, the two companies were the only Cook Inlet-area pipeline operators reporting spills.

In all, 10 pipeline releases were reported for the 12 months between Sept. 15, 2002, and Sept. 15, 2003. That compares to the 66 releases analyzed in the 60 months covered in the first report, according to the Peninsula Clarion.

Nearly one-third of the spills were credited to unknown causes. Human error and maintenance problems resulted in 20 percent of the releases.

Salmonella may have sickened Kodiak kids

KODIAK - A possible salmonella outbreak at the Kodiak Christian School sickened nearly 50 people.

Joe McLaughlin, medical epidemiologist with the state Division of Public Health said he can't say for sure what caused the outbreak. But he said it appears to be a foodborne outbreak.

State and city health officials conducted an onsite investigation on Friday and Saturday.

McLaughlin said the team interviewed potentially-infected people and collected clinical and environmental samples for testing.

Donna Schmelzenbach, principal of Kodiak Christian School, said the outbreak occurred after a lunch eaten at the school.

Salmonella bacteria causes an infection of the intestines called salmonellosis.

Symptoms usually begin within three days and include diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, fever and headache. Some people infected may have no symptoms.

Anchorage finally gets first measurable snow

ANCHORAGE - Anchorage got its first measurable snowfall of the season on Monday when a little storm sashayed in from the Bering Season and dropped an inch of snow on the city.

The National Weather Service says more, lots more, is on the way.

The city missed tying the Nov. 11 record for the latest measurable accumulation by only one day. The record is Nov. 11, 1944 and 1950.

Forecasters said a new storm is building off the Alaska Peninsula and expected to roll into Prince William Sound. The weather service predicted that 3 to 6 inches could hit the Anchorage Bowl starting late Tuesday, with up to 12 inches in the mountains by the end of Wednesday.

"This definitely looks like a really good chance to be the first good snow of the year," said meteorologist Bob Hopkins.

As temperatures fell below freezing, the state Department of Transportation issued alerts for portions of the Seward and Glenn highways in Anchorage.

Chugiak teacher honored

JUNEAU - The state Department of Education has named Kathie Steele of Chugiak the teacher of the year.

Steele, a 13-year teacher, has taught English and reading at Chugiak High School since 1998, the state said.

Paula Savikko, who teaches at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School in Juneau, was one of five finalists.

Education Commissioner Roger Sampson, in announcing the decision in Anchorage on Sunday, said Steele uses innovative approaches and treats students with respect in order to engage her students.

Mt. Edgecumbe state school to expand

JUNEAU - Mt. Edgecumbe High School, the state-run residential school in Sitka, will soon be able to serve 80 more students, the state Department of Education said.

Last school year Mt. Edgecumbe had about 300 applicants for 140 openings, Education Commissioner Roger Sampson said. The school serves 300 students from about 100 communities.

The state has approved $1.7 million in federal funding to complete the planning and design phase of an expected $5 million renovation to be completed in the fall of 2005.

The state plans to renovate a 17,300-square-foot dorm built in 1940 and unused in recent years. The state also will add five or six classrooms to the academic building.

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