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Damage from 2,000 gallon fuel spill in Bethel is likely minimal

(Creative Commons photo adapted from Holy Trinity Orthodox Church)

An initial report of a 200 gallon fuel spill was made to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (AKDEC) on Oct. 8. But a preliminary investigation indicates that the spill was 10 times larger.

“Follow up conversation led me to believe that the spill was approximately 2,000 gallons,” said Bernie Nowicki, the Western Region on-scene coordinator for AKDEC. He said that a preliminary investigation pinpoints the source of the leak to some loose flange bolts on one of the tanks.

“Well, the good thing is it's remained in containment,” said Nowicki.

The spill took place at the Vitus Energy fuel terminal in Bethel. Nowicki said that much of the gasoline is likely to evaporate. “Will they ever recover the full 2,000 gallons? That’s all debatable,” he said.

The Vitus Energy fuel terminal was built last year. The brand new facility is designed to contain spills. A rubberized liner underlies the fuel tanks. “That liner is sealed and there's quality control checks to ensure that this thing will not leak,” said Nowicki. He added that environmental damage is likely minimal.

In an email, a Vitus Energy spokesperson said that there were no injuries. The company doesn’t believe that any wildlife was impacted, and they have no reason to believe anyone forced their way into the facility.

Emily Schwing is a long-time Alaska-based reporter.
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