Tanker loading resumed at the Valdez Marine Terminal Sept. 25, following an overflight of the spill zone confirmed to federal and state officials that recovery operations following a Sept. 21 spill had been successful, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. said in a Sept. 26 statement.
The Sept. 21 spill at the terminal was what Alyeska described as “oily test water” believed to have resulted from flow back during a test of the integrity of the loading arms.
The cause is under investigation, but Alyeska said in a Sept. 22 fact sheet that a preliminary determination points to testing during planned annual maintenance of loading arms. The company said that to test loading arm integrity, “a fire water pump routed salt water through the system at an increased pressure.”
“During a pause in the testing, oily test water flowed back through hose and piping related to the maintenance, out of the first system salt water intake piping, and into Port Valdez.”
Alyeska said boom was deployed for the test, but the salt water intake piping, the source of the spill, was outside the booming.
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s Division of Spill Prevention and Response said in its situation reports on the incident that the cause was under investigation, “but early indicators show that oily water in the oil loading system may have drained through the Berth firewater system during a pressure test.”
Sept. 21The sheen was observed shortly after 11 a.m. Sept. 21 and the division said in a 5 p.m. situation report that the source had been secured.
Alyeska said in a Sept. 22 fact sheet that crews worked through the night to recover oil and protect sensitive areas, with both the Solomon Gulch Hatchery and the Valdez Duck Flats boomed overnight.
In an evening fact sheet on Sept. 23 Alyeska said that response continued around the clock, with no observed areas of concentrated oil on the water. The company said the focus was on rainbow sheens inside the containment, with an afternoon overflight confirming that all sheens were within containment.
There were some shoreline impacts at the Valdez Marine Terminal inside the containment area, Alyeska said, and an assessment would be performed to determine a plan for cleaning the impacted shoreline area.
Wildlife specialists had not found any affected wildlife, the company said Sept. 23.
There were no tankers at berth when the spill occurred and Alyeska said shippers adjusted their schedules. The terminal inventory was at 26 percent Sept. 23, and the company said the response was not expected to impact North Slope production.
Alyeska said Sept. 26 that it had resumed tanker loading at the terminal after an overflight confirmed successful recovery operations to federal and state officials.
The company said the U.S. Coast Guard and DEC concurred with the decision to restart tanker-related operations after the fly-over Sept. 25, and a tanker docked at Berth 5 late Sept. 25, with loading operations continuing Sept. 26.
Alyeska said activity in the area of Berths 4 and 5 continues as vessels and equipment are decontaminated and crews monitor conditions and remaining absorbent boom.
SERVSAlyeska’s Ship Escort/Response Vessel System, SERVS, recovered some 400 gallons of oil/water mixture by Sept. 26, the division said in its Sept. 26 situation report.
While tanker loading operations have resumed, absorbent boom will remain in place to collect any remaining sheen that may surface, the division said.
Scott Hicks of Alyeska, the incident commander, said: “We appreciate the diligence and concentration of responders, and state and federal personnel who worked closely with us to the point. We will maintain that focus until we are satisfied that our response is complete to our shared standards.”