USCG Task Force Returns to Anchorage After Facility Checks

Inspectors with Coast Guard Sector Anchorage’s Marine Safety Task Force and the Environmental Protection Agency climb the stairs into a tank farm in Selawik, Alaska, July 8, 2022. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Melissa E. F. McKenzie.

Members of the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Anchorage’s Marine Safety Task Force returned to Anchorage in July after spending nine days inspecting facilities in the Northwest Arctic Borough.

They teamed up with the Environmental Protection Agency to check two dozen bulk fuel storage facilities in 11 Alaskan communities, including Kotzebue, Kivalina, Noorvik, Selawik and Utqiagvik.

“Fuel facilities are critical to the survival of these remote communities,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Houvener, a marine science technician and team lead.

“They rely on fuel to heat their homes and schools during sub-freezing winter months,” he continued. “Many of these facilities are located in remote parts of the state with a lack of available resources and infrastructure, which means outside help isn’t readily available to them if something goes wrong.”

“So, it’s important,” he said, “for us to ensure their facilities are not putting them or the environment at unnecessary risk.”

Sector Anchorage’s area of responsibility includes the inspection of about 380 waterfront facilities, 346 of which are not road-accessible.

“Our goals were to get eyes on the facilities, establish relationships within the communities and work toward regulatory compliance,” said Torri Huelskoetter, on-scene coordinator for the EPA. “These communities face unique challenges. By going there and speaking with them, we can better address the issues they’re facing and work with them to meet compliance.”

By Karen Robes Meeks