Spill response official quits over Yukon flooding *Update*

by
oilycatSam Harrel / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Public Health Nurse Andrea Dubenezic, left, helps Stacey Pare, of Eagle, clean her cat Moo Wow on Thursday night. The animal was found among the debris of Pare’s home which was destroyed by the flooding Yukon River. The two were cleaning heating oil and other contaminates from the cat.

Aug 1, 2009

This picture  and a story from NewsMiner.com, speak volumes.

Department of Environmental Conservation official quits, citing ‘miserable’ spill response to Yukon flooding

FAIRBANKS — The state’s leader for spill response has quit his job because of shortcomings and safety concerns he encountered during Yukon River spring flooding.

Ed Meggert said that while most of the Department of Environmental Conservation divisions handled matters well, his unit — the Division of Spill Prevention and Response — failed internally.

Meggert was in Eagle and other flooded Yukon villages within days of the spring ice flood that toppled everything in its path including diesel tanks. His team?

Assembling an incident command team as per regulation, Meggert found only one employee willing to help. He was forced to send a new employee with a week of initial training to go out into the field alone. No one was available to help with logistics, supplies, environmental issues or contracting.

And it wasn’t just the lack of support that led to his resignation. The concern for the safety of his team also played a role.

“I sent them out individually to dangerous situations, for which I’m personally liable, and then I had them working for no money,” he said. “I did it because it had to be done. People were out of their homes. But I won’t do it again. I can’t afford to take those chances, nor will I do it to the people I work with.”

That’s probably not the only thing he can’t afford – apparently the DEC is not great when it comes to paying its bills either.

At one point, DEC failed to pay a Fairbanks contractor its full bill, Meggert said. He covered the $6,000 gap out of his own pocket, an expenditure which might not be reimbursed by the state.

oilspills

We hope DEC fills the vacancy quickly because there are over 2,000 reports of oil and hazardous substance release each year in Alaska.

During Fiscal Year 2008 (July 1, 2007-June 30, 2008), 2,013 oil and hazardous substance releases were reported to the Department.

Then again, that number is down…

The total number of spills (2,013) as well as the total volume (388,842 gal) released in FY 2008 was lower than the average for the 13-year period of record.*

The North Slope subarea had the greatest number of spills (545) during FY 2008 compared to the other subareas. However, the total volume (46,755 gal)was less than 25% of the 13-year average for the subarea (200,933 gal).

… maybe they don’t need to fill this position.

Update – August 4

There’s more about the situation at the Department of Environmental Conservation at Juneau Empire.com this morning:

My Turn: DEC developments show Palin did not walk her talk

In May 2007, Palin proudly launched an oil and gas infrastructure review slated to cost $5 million and take two to three years to complete. The Alaska Risk Assessment project was to be “a thorough, independent appraisal” that would “identify facilities and systems that pose the greatest risk of failure, along with measures to reduce risks.”

Two years later, the ARA project is in shambles. According to DEC project manager Ira Rosen, the project is temporarily at “full stop,” primarily because the state has not been able to secure industry cooperation in providing the necessary information. After spending more than $1.3 million, DEC pulled the ARA contractors off the job when the project plan was resoundingly denounced during the public comment period that ended June 2.

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5 Responses to “Spill response official quits over Yukon flooding *Update*”

  1. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    This is heartbreaking – our top statewide oil spill response leader was worried for the safely of his team and had to pay state bills out of pocket?

    As a long time resident and previous public servant in both city and state government, I am so sickened to hear this. My hope is that this inefficiency or whatever it turns out to be is from attrition due to no real leadership at the top level, and not the reality of how DEC is responding overall for Alaska. I worked for DEC many years ago in a division which dealt with monitoring and response in Southeast Alaska, and I considered my co-workers to be very well educated in their fields, proud of their role in protecting community, and efficient in dealing with day to day monitoring and emergencies.

    There is no excuse for this, especially in Alaska. It’s not like we have a million or more people – and we certainly shouldn’t already have a bureaucracy which is unresponsive or stalled after only 50 years of statehood. Shame on us!

  2. alaskapi Says:

    http://juneauempire.com/stories/080409/opi_476223119.shtml

    not good…
    not good at all…

  3. Secret TalkerΔ Says:

    Alaskapi, Thanks for linking to the Fineberg article in Juneau Empire. How disheartening and frustrating to be a well-trained professional who cannot do a safe and effective important and sometimes dangerous job because The System is highly flawed. I hope all will look at the link.

  4. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    You should post *UPDATE* on the title and add the new link from the Juneau Empire, which rounds out some info reported from the Alaska Standard.

  5. Kath the Scrappy Says:

    Pathetic! Look at how MANY professionals (i.e. in the Health Dept) have had to resign or be fired recently just to uphold a scientific based professional work ethic. He probably saw “the handwriting on the wall”.

    If someone had been hurt, due to inadequate support & teamwork from the agency, well, Ed Meggert has to be able to say “NOT on MY watch!” He made his objections, but they obviously fell on deaf ears. I don’t think Mr. Meggert took this stance lightly, given how many years he had spent in his career.

    The man has to sleep at night without fearing that he put people at risk due to a bumbling agency.

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