A large, smelly fuel spill in Crescent Harbor caught the attention of passersby yesterday evening. But the Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment (MSD), which is responsible for investigating fuel spills, have not been able to determine it’s origins.

Around 5pm, a caller to the police department reported seeing a sheen of oil in Crescent Harbor. MSD supervisor Mike Wortman got called to the scene at 7:30pm. He said the spill was 200 by 100 feet, amounting to approximately 1/2 a gallon of spilled oil. He couldn’t identify what kind of oil it was or the source.

“I couldn’t identify whether it was storm drains or a vessel,” Wortman said. “I’m speculating it was a vessel, but didn’t see any additional discharges. Unfortunately it’s what we call a ‘mystery spill’ and we’re just trying to figure out where it’s coming from.”

The oil dissipated on its own, without evident damage to the harbor vessels or floats. Wortman said MSD received four reports of oil sheens in Sitka Harbors in March, which is an average amount, but that spilled oil of any kind violates federal regulations.

Wortman said that among those found guilty, “penalties could be a warning or could be monetary fines. It depends on [the perpetrator’s] frequency and the amount of oil spilled.”

Wortman lamented the fact that some oil sheens escape the attention of MSD.

Last Friday (3-27-15), a caller notified the police department about an oil slick the length of Crescent Harbor. According to the police, the Harbors Department was notified, but Wortman said he never heard about it.

He stressed that timing is key when it comes to addressing oil spills and urged the public to immediately report any sheen to the US Coast Guard. This can be done anonymously via the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.