A Delta Western fuel truck on its way to a fueling station.

A Delta Western truck turns to a fueling station. (Emily Files)

Fuel distributor Delta Western is working with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, or DEC, after a fuel spill at Lutak Dock last week. A hose disconnected while filling a tanker truck at its fueling station, spilling about 120 gallons of jet fuel on the ground.

While the spill is considered small by DEC standards and clean-up is mostly complete, the Haines Borough found out two days after the fact. That didn’t sit well with borough manager – and former marine – Dave Sosa.

“It’s like if you’re a lieutenant or a captain and a general comes over and says ‘Hey, did you realize one of your marines did this?’ I’ve never liked being in that situation and I didn’t like being in that situation now and I made that very clear to Delta Western.”

He alerted media to the spill on Thursday, and requested Delta Western release a public statement about the spill. As of about 5 p.m. Thursday, that still hadn’t happened. (Editor’s note: the statement from Delta Western was released to media on May 1. See the full statement below.)

Fuel or toxic spills of any size have to be reported to the DEC. Bob Mattson is an environmental program manager with the prevention and emergency response division at DEC. Here he is describing the spill that took place April 21st as reported to him by Delta Western.

“They had a client of their filling up their truck and they said the hose disconnected during the truck fueling operations and spilled an estimated 100-120 gallons of Jet A.”

Jet A fuel is used for airplanes, helicopters and other turbine engines. It’s trucked north to the Alaska Interior. It’s just one kind of fuel that constitutes the more than 600,000 gallons of fuel that crosses Lutak Dock monthly.

Mattson says he was told by Delta Western that clean up began right away and the company notified DEC within about two hours. He says that time period for notification is reasonable.

“Two hours to a spill to land is good. The regulations would call for immediately if it’s over 55 gallons but basically how we read that is as soon as you can.”

But DEC isn’t the only entity that’s supposed to be notified when a spill occurs. Mattson said the land owner should also be told. Mattson says he assumed Delta Western owned the property. A few days later he discovered that isn’t the case. The property is owned by the borough and leased to Delta Western.

“They should have alerted the land owner, which is the borough.”

Sosa says he was alerted to the spill by Mattson’s office at which point he contacted Delta Western’s main office in Seattle. He said Delta Western agreed the borough was supposed to be notified of the spill.

“In order to let their team focus on actions on the ground, it’s the team in Seattle that’s supposed to to do all the other contact and they failed to contact us.”

Sosa says Thursday morning he met with local and executive Delta Western representatives, the Haines Harbormaster, DEC officials and the mayor on teleconference about how to deal with response and notifications in the future.

Now that the borough knows about the spill, Mattson says borough officials will be included in clean up and remediation plans.

As for the contamination, Mattson says he gave Delta Western permission to use its own excavator to remove the soil and put it in a bermed, lined area. Mattson says he authorized that because it was forecasted to rain the day of the spill. Removing the soil right away prevented the fuel from being spread deeper or further by the rain.

Delta Western and DEC now work together on a plan to store the 14 cubic yards of contaminated soil more securely and make a disposal and remediation plan for it. The site and groundwater will also have to be tested to make sure all the contamination was taken care of, Mattson says.


May 1st statement from Delta Western:

“On April 21 at approximately 1030 in the morning 125 gallons of Jet A was released from the Delta Western truck rack onto the ground.  The source was immediately secured and response actions immediately taken to contain and clean up the Jet.  In addition, the State was notified immediately.  At this time all contaminated soil is contained in 19 “Super Sacks” and are ready for disposal.  All the contaminated soil was removed.  The estimated amount of contaminated soil is 16 cubic yards.

The cause of the spill is under investigation but preliminary findings indicate that human error and mechanical failure were responsible.  The mechanical failure has been remedied.  The human error component is being addressed now by enhanced training for all drivers at the truck rack including driver review of the equipment and procedures. 

Delta Western is committed to constantly review and refine its procedures and operations to insure that releases like this do not happen.”