Containment boom below the raceway at the Sitka Sound Science Center on Saturday, November 20, 2021. The source of the oil spill is unknown, but it appears to be slowing. (KCAW/Robert Woolsey)

Oil is seeping out from under a seawall at the Sitka Sound Science Center, and investigators have yet to determine where it’s coming from.

The spill was discovered by contractors Thursday afternoon (11-18-21) outside the Sitka Sound Science Center’s  hatchery penstock, during excavation for a new spawning facility. Science Center director Lisa Busch says they were pumping water out of the raceway when the oil began seeping out. Water from the Indian River which normally feeds the penstock had already been diverted for the project. 

The source and volume of the spill is currently unknown, but there’s speculation from both the Coast Guard and the state Department of Environmental Conservation that it might originate somewhere uphill, on the former campus of Sheldon Jackson College, which is now owned by the Sitka Fine Arts Camp. 

The Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment has deployed containment boom to minimize oil from entering Sitka Sound. Another boom was placed between the spill and the hatchery penstock.  Although oil is continuing to seep from the seawall beneath the Science Center building, the flow has appeared to slow since its discovery Thursday afternoon. No hatchery stock are threatened by the spill; however, there has been some seepage onto the adjacent beach.  Clean up efforts are currently underway, as well as an investigation into the source of the oil.