A diesel spill from a commercial vessel traveled from Sitka Sound into ANB Harbor yesterday (08-31-15). Marine Safety Detachment supervisor Mike Wortman said the culprit has been found and that the spill was over 50 gallons. (Photo courtesy of Mike Wortman)

The Coast Guard has determined the source of a large diesel spill that spread from Sitka Sound into ANB harbor yesterday morning (08-31-15).

The spill was noticed around 8AM in the morning, but not reported until 11am. The Harbors Department and Coast Guard responded. Mike Wortman is the supervisor of the Marine Safety Detachment in Sitka.

“[We] looked at video footage. We’ve identified the source,” said Wortman. “From there, we’ve been working with the Sitka Tribe of Alaska and locals to make sure they know that we have found the source and we’re going to be going after them as the responsible party.”

The source was a commercial vessel south of ANB Harbor, who Wortman says will likely have to pay a penalty for the spill. Wortman said that because the spill wasn’t reported for several hours, the size could have been anywhere from 50 gallons to 300 gallons. That makes clean-up difficult.

“As we know, diesel or any type of oil on the water’s surface travels. So one, it’s hard to locate everywhere it goes,” said Wortman. “From there, once it does dissipate, it’s harder to quantify what’s there. So if we did get call at 8:30 a.m., as people were complaining about it, we could have gotten out there and seen exactly what was going on.”

Overall, the Harbors Department and Coast Guard and were able to recover 10 gallons yesterday / Monday afternoon and concluded the clean-up operation. The rest, Wortman said, is “tough to impossible” to recover.

Wortman reminded Sitkans to immediately report all oil sheens on a navigable waterway to the US Coast Guard. This can be done anonymously via the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802