Diesel fuel source shut off once identified and clean up efforts continued

    Thursday, September 21, 2023 at 1:25 PM

    By Jordan Lewis and Jasz Garrett

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - On Sept. 7, the CBJ Utility noted an aroma of diesel in the wastewater collections system in the Juneau downtown area and at the Juneau/Douglas waste treatment facility. At the same time, downtown businesses also reported the fuel smell directly to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC).

    The CBJ Utility and ADEC immediately launched a joint field investigation to find and isolate/mitigate the source of the diesel entering the sewer system.

    Tiffany Larson, Director of Spill Prevention and Response (SPAR) told News of the North the source was identified as a residential heating oil tank.

    Chad Gubala, CBJ Production & Treatment Manager, detailed the City's response over the past two weeks.

    "The city had worked very closely with the state, the DEC, SPAR Spill Prevention and Recovery group," he said. "DEC actually was the lead agency in this matter between the two groups and with community support we located the source of the fuel and that has been shut off and mitigated permanently now."

    Juneau residents living downtown reported still smelling the diesel fuel this week. Gubala said that's because of residual materials.

    "The residual materials that are still affecting the sewer and stormwater drainage system are being cleaned up as we speak. We have boons out in the stormwater system to sop up residual fuel," he explained. "There's still going to be a little bit of aroma as we finish getting the rest of the material out of the system. Everybody probably knows that everybody's very sensitive to fuel smell. So, small amounts actually go a long way."

    He explained that the impact the diesel fuel has had is minor.

    "The spill as in its entirety over the course of the two weeks that it played out affected our wastewater treatment plant to a minor extent. But we didn't notice any specific effects to human health or the ecosystem," Gubala said. "So, we're fortunate to catch most of this before it did any damage. We're very, very thankful to the community in general, for all the support and information that we got back in on this."

    If someone is aware of any leaking fuel tanks or pipes or knows of any other possible sources of fuels that may be discharged to the City's drainage and sewer systems, they are advised to contact ADEC’s Office of Spill Prevention and Recovery (SPAR) immediately. They can also call the DEC response team office toll-free at 1-800-478-9300.

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