Shortly after noon on a sunny, calm, Sunday, December 9, the Nordic Viking sank in the Seward Harbor while moored to the T Dock by Icicle Seafoods.
Thanks to a tip this morning, I discovered a rainbow of diesel fuel all along the shore of the Waterfront. I found more diesel sheen at the Second Avenue culvert in the Lagoon, showing that the fuel entered Scheffler Creek and flowed into the Lagoon during the previous two high tides. No booms were deployed to protect the anadromous creek or Lagoon where Trumpeter Swans, Bufflehead, Barrow’s Goldeneyes, Mallards, Common Mergansers, and other birds and wildlife live and eat.
When I arrived at the site of the sunken vessel at noon, a fixed containment boom partially ringed the boat, but several feet of the boom was submerged, letting more diesel fuel escape. A saturated absorbent pad flowed right out as well. Shortly afterwards, a crew from Storm Chasers arrived and deployed a long absorbent boom to block the escaping pollution. They also collected the saturated pads and boom into black plastic bags.
Two staff members from the Anchorage office of the Department of Environmental Conservation also arrived on the scene shortly after noon, and began coordinating with the Coast Guard on the containment and raising of the vessel.
They said Storm Chasers had to submit a proposal for raising the vessel before any further work could be done. ADEC does not have a protocol, but many options exist.
I checked Sheffler Creek at 1 pm where the incoming tide carried more diesel sheen into the unprotected creek. A Barrow’s Goldeneye dove for fish in the salmon creek.
When I returned at 2 pm, three absorbent booms had been placed in the lower stretch of the creek. Water and diesel fuel flowed between the gaps of the boom, continuing to pollute this important, rich stream, the Lagoon, and tributaries.
Like the failed tsunami warning system, the protocol for containing oil spills from sunken vessels and preventing contamination of the harbor, ocean, Waterfront Beach, Scheffler Creek, the Lagoon, etc needs a lot of improvement.
Meanwhile, seabirds, sea lions, sea otters, and other wildlife will ingest a little diesel with every meal and fish will breathe it. Please do not let your dog wade or swim along the Waterfront.
ADEC advised that the diesel sheen should eventually evaporate.
Next time, it should be contained.