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Oil Spill Shuts Down Nome State Office Building Indefinitely

The Nome State Office Building has closed after a fuel spill first detected on Saturday. Photo: Laura Kraegel, KNOM.

Leaking heating oil has closed the Nome State Office Building indefinitely after a fuel spill was first detected late Saturday afternoon. Officials with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) estimate 200 to 300 gallons of home heating oil have spilled after the failure of a fuel filter gasket.

The smell of fuel was first noticed by employees with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Saturday at 4 p.m., according to a DEC press release issued Tuesday. Maintenance staff with the Alaska Department of Transportation (DOT) then discovered spilled oil on the boiler room floor.

About an hour later, the DOT maintenance staff had shut off the building’s day tank to control the source of the spill. The failed gasket is located between the day tank and an above-ground storage tank.

Still, the building’s boiler room floor has three drains leading to the Nome’s sewer system. DEC officials said it’s unclear whether any fuel has leaked into those drains, but spilled oil has been found in a crawl space beneath the concrete floor.

As the owner of the building, the State of Alaska Department of Administration (DOA) is considered the responsible party. A facility manager for the DOA arrived in Nome on Monday with three construction contractors.

The DOA has also hired Shannon & Wilson, Inc. to perform an assessment, develop a cleanup plan, and begin required cleanup efforts. Shannon & Wilson is a geotechnical and environmental consulting firm based in Seattle with offices in Anchorage and Fairbanks.

Candice Bressler is a public information officer with the DEC. She said the department recommended the DOA hire a third-party contractor so that specialists can handle the emergency cleanup, but there is no information yet on when those cleanup efforts will get underway.

In the meantime, the Nome State Office Building will remain closed, and employees with affected offices are finding other spaces to work during the cleanup.

The affected offices are the Legislative Information Office, the Division of Elections, the Division of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Corrections, The Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development, the Department of Fish and Game, the Department of Health and Social Services, and the Department of Law. The DEC said approximately 45 state employees will be impacted.

The DEC said it’s unknown whether any wildlife or other natural resources have been affected by the spill.