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Tundra Lake, Avak Creek Discharge

Site Contact:
Torri Huelskoetter


Site Location:
Utqiagvik, AK 99723
NRC#: 1401000

On May 21, 2024, a spill of unknown petroleum product was identified on a tundra lake that drains into Avak Creek. Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation (UIC) has been managing the response as the potential landowners. Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) notified the National Response Center on June 5, 2024. The discharge has been reported as various products, from hydraulic oil to diesel in the lake's surface ice to depths up to 22 inches below the ice and surfacing on the ice through the snow as it melts. No source has been identified but a sample was collected for lab testing on June 10. The spill area is within the range of Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed Steller’s eiders, spectacled eiders, and polar bear (all listed as Threatened) and within designated critical habitat (denning) of polar bears.

The spill spite is 22 miles outside of Ukpeaġvik and only accessible through a snow trail over the tundra or via helicopter. Deteriorating winter conditions have eliminated access to the tundra lake over the snow trail. UIC deployed absorbant and hard boom on the lake to try and prevent the petroleum product from reaching Avak creek.  An analytical sample was taken for lab testing on June 11 to determine the content of the spilled product.

EPA is coordinating with UIC, ADEC, North Slope Borough, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Department of Interior, and US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).  An Incident Command System 232 Resources at Risk summary has been drafted to address wildlife and cultural resource concerns.

This incident is within EPA’s jurisdiction and Region 10 Federal On-Scene Coordinator (OSC) Huelskoetter is conducting oversight and continuing to coordinate with the landowner, state and federal partners. EPA opened the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF) and is issuing a Pollution Removal Funding Authorization (PFRA) to USFWS to hire a wildlife contractor to conduct a wildlife assessment and to deploy passive hazing tactics to protect the ESA species in the area.