Seattle – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached settlement with Big State Logistics, Inc. (“BSL”), a fuel hauler and trucking firm based in Fairbanks and Valdez, Alaska, over three separate spills on Alaska’s Richardson Highway. The spills took place in 2016, between Fairbanks and Valdez and ranged from 339 gallons to 3,571 gallons of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel.
One spill was caused by equipment failure and the other two spills involved ice and snow packed road conditions. In each incident, BSL and its contractors responded quickly and conducted fuel recovery and clean-up actions. Following these events, the company also halted transportation of double trailers during the harshest weather months and gave BSL drivers the discretion to not haul double trailers if the roads were judged to be in poor condition. The company will pay a total of $43,000 in penalties as part of this settlement.
Since 2015, the EPA, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, and United States Coast Guard have hosted workshops in Anchorage and Fairbanks for agencies, insurers and trucking companies that transport fuel and bulk chemicals throughout Alaska to troubleshoot logistical weak spots and brainstorm solutions to the persistent problem of fuel transport crashes, especially during the winter months. The most recent workshops were held in Fairbanks and Anchorage on March 30 and April 4, 2017, respectively.
All participating agencies were unanimous in underscoring the importance of timely reporting of spills and releases to the National Response Center 24-hour hotline (1-800-424-8802). Early notification plays a critical role in getting resources and personnel mobilized to often remote locations, which can make all the difference in reducing harm to people, natural resources and the environment.
Details on the spill incidents include:
Birch Lake – On September 5, 2016, a BSL tanker truck was northbound when a failure of the trailer tongue resulted in the secondary tank overturning into the right-of-way ditch of the southbound lane of the highway. In the process, the secondary tank was punctured in multiple locations and spilled approximately 3,571 gallons of diesel fuel, with most of the product released immediately after the secondary tank rolled over. Later investigation determined that the rollover was caused by a defective coupling device on the secondary tanker trailer (“pup tank”). Equipment change was immediately instituted by the company.
Tsina River – On October 21, 2016, a BSL fuel tanker truck experienced a loss of traction when the driver was attempting to decelerate in order to pull off the highway into a rest area to remove snow chains. The secondary tank trailer left the roadway, rolling over an embankment and coming to rest in a channel of the Tsina River. The pup tank suffered a puncture and spilled approximately 339 gallons of diesel fuel to a river channel.
Paxson Lake – On November 12, 2016, a BSL fuel tanker truck lost traction when attempting to stop for wildlife and hunters on the road, causing the tanker trailer to start fishtailing. Once the tanker trailer departed the highway, it released from the hitch due to a safety feature of the hitch. The tanker trailer then rolled and its vapor rail was ruptured, releasing 276 gallons of diesel fuel to the ground, and ultimately some fuel to a 10 ft. by 10 ft. area of lake ice.
Suzanne Skadowski, U.S. EPA