By Melinda Munson

On Oct. 29, Cynthia Tronrud walked her dogs near her home, along a trail that leads to Skagway River, when she noticed something wrong.

“I could just smell the fuel,” she said. Assuming it was kerosene on newly erected utility poles, it wasn’t until the next day she investigated and discovered a rainbow sheen of oil in the stream. “It was everywhere,” she stated. 

Tronrud reported smelling the fuel for several hundred feet. Oil was visible in the water for the next several weeks. At Tronrud’s last visit on Dec. 3, the creek had frozen over but the smell was still present.

According to Borough Manager Brad Ryan, a fuel tank leak occurred above Dyea Road on private property. The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) was notified and made a site visit.

“I have not had any follow up from them,” Ryan said.

“It [heating fuel] would have run down into the Skagway River,” Ryan confirmed.

When asked if he is troubled about the situation, Ryan responded, “We’re alway concerned about oil leaks.”

Tronrud has spoken with DEC twice.

“It’s been over a month of this fuel coming down the mountain. It’s concerning to me,” she said. Tronrud worries about her dogs who might drink from the stream, and families like her own, who utilize wells.

She hopes to get a testing kit to verify the safety of her drinking water.

“I think everyone else should too,” she said.

According to Rachael Krajewski, DEC Southeast environmental program manager, “no odor has been reported from drinking water” in the area. The DEC is discussing options to test two wells in the vicinity of the leak. Krajewski noted that residents should obviously avoid drinking water that has a sheen or unusual smell.

According to Krajewski, the DEC is engaging with the land owner where the contamination originated “to discuss cleanup and assessment options.” 

“We’re still working to assess the extent of the impact,” Krajewski said. Questions can be directed to her office at 907-465-6648.