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Holed Tug Spills 5,000 Gallons of Fuel near Dillingham

Published On: May 14 2014 06:50:00 PM AKDT
Holed Tug Spills 5,000 Gallons of Fuel near Dillingham

Courtesy Alaska DEC

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation released this map of Nushagak River overflights following the tug Devon striking what the ship's master reported as a rock early Wednesday morning. At least 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel were spilled, but only one of the three overflights detected fuel sheens Wednesday .

ANCHORAGE -

A tug which was holed beneath its waterline on the Nushagak River near Dillingham early Wednesday has spilled at least 5,000 gallons of fuel, according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

A DEC statement Wednesday night says the tug Devon was being used for barging at the time of the incident, just after 12:30 a.m. about 10 miles east of Dillingham. DEC officials were informed of the incident by the U.S. Coast Guard at about 4:15 a.m., with tug owner Sam Barging saying the spill had discharged between 5,000 and 5,500 gallons of diesel. The statement listed no reports of injuries.

"The 7,400-gallon capacity fuel tank was breached when the vessel encountered an unknown submerged object in the river," DEC officials wrote. "Remaining fuel in the tank was transferred into a void space in the vessel."

Coast Guard spokesperson Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Eggert says no injuries were reported in the incident.

"At about 1 a.m., the ship's master contacted the Anchorage Sector command center to report that he struck what he believed to be a rock and was leaking fuel," Eggert said. "It wasn't an object they were aware of; it wasn't anything they knew was in that part of the river."

Eggert says not all of the fuel is expected to remain in the river.

"Obviously the diesel will burn off when the weather gets a little warmer, but we made a few overflights to track any pollution," Eggert said.

According to DEC, a Coast Guard C-130 made an early-morning overflight of the river and spotted an oil sheen, with subsequent flights made by aircraft with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Alaska State Troopers.

"The Coast Guard observed light sheen on the river during their overflight," DEC officials wrote. "By the time ADF&G and the Alaska State Troopers conducted their overflights, the sheen was no longer visible along the river."

Coast Guard officials asked a local radio station to broadcast information about the incident to local fishermen, with future Coast Guard advisory broadcasts set to warn fishermen of the grounding potential in the area.

Plans are being made to remove the Devon from the water and conduct a full damage assessment.

Channel 2 hasn't received a response to a message left Wednesday evening with Gay Harpole, the DEC's designated contact for information on the spill.