Officials urge peninsula residents to check their fuel tanks following recent spill
A fuel tank spilled from a home between the waterfront and Sterling Highway in Homer last week, raising concerns from residents who reported smelling the fuel. After getting several calls, Cook Inletkeeper followed up on the situation in their role as an organization working to protect regional watersheds.
Quentin Simeon, the operations director for Inletkeeper, said the property owners where the spill occurred reported the fuel leak to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, and are working with the agency to remediate the area impacted by the spill. But, he said, it’s a good reminder for people with home fuel tanks to take precautions to prevent spills.
Simeon said with more people switching to burning natural gas in recent years, there’s likely to be other out-of-use tanks in the community that could present similar spill hazards.
“If you have a tank that is not being used, it's not that expensive to get it taken care of," he said. "But getting it removed is way cheaper than remediation. And so if you have an unused tank, try to get it removed as soon as possible. That would solve a big headache in the future.”
Simeon said members of Cook Inletkeeper spoke with DEC’s Prevention Preparedness and Response Program this week to learn more about spill prevention measures, and to help people with fuel tanks navigate routine safety checks.
“The first thing is: monitor fuel use. Note significant increases, but take into consideration temperature," Simeon said. "But if you do notice over a large period of time that you're using way more fuel, you might want to check for leaks in your system. Checking the vent for debris, checking the bottom edges, especially the ends for stains, or rust or wet spots and dampness — that's really important.”
The DEC recommends protecting tanks from potential hazards like snow and ice falling from rooftops, or overhanging tree branches that could break. They also suggest making sure fuel stands are stable and covering tanks with anti-corrosive paint.
“Those chemicals are dangerous, and we want to make sure that they're contained and being used for fuel, not as contaminants,” he said.
An official with DEC said the average cost of spill remediation on private property varies, but costs rise if spills spread off of the property or into water. And, they encourage people to report spills immediately.