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University Lake Discharge

Site Contact:
Torri Huelskoetter


Site Location:
3865 Elmore Road, Anchorage, Alaska
Anchorage, AK 99508
NRC#: 1370821

On June 21, 2023, a report to Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) and National Response Center (NRC) about a discharge of oil from a culvert connected to a Municipality of Anchorage (MOA) storm water drainage system that runs through the Alaska Native Medical Center Campus (ANMC) into the southwest portion of University Lake.  ADEC and MOA responders identified diesel odors coming from an oil-grit separator (OGS) located immediately upstream of the culvert discharge point. The OGS was observed to be full of oily water prompting MOA to empty approximately 5,000 gallons of oily water from the OGS via a vacuum truck. On June 27th the MOA hired contractors (U.S. Ecology) place hard boom near the culvert to contain the product. ANMC was notified of the discharge on June 28th and hired contractors (U.S. Ecology) contain and recover oily water from the lake and OGS. EPA and ADEC stood up a Unified Command on June 28th.

This spill source unknown but originated on the ANMC campus. It entered the lake via the MOA’s stormwater sewer system, following an assumed failure of the in-line oil-grit separator to contain the fuel. Sheen has spread to most of the southwest shore of the lake. The discharge has not traveled further downstream of the lake due to containment by a pre-existing ‘pollen plug’ and downed trees. Several birds were observed inside of the containment boom but did not appear to be impacted.

University Lake is a MOA City Park and designated ‘dog park.’ An inlet and outlet to the lake exists and is identified as Chester Creek and an anadromous stream that releases to Cook Inlet approximately 5 miles downstream. The lake and park are bounded to the south by Alaska Native Medical Center, to the East by a residential neighborhood, Alaska Pacific University to the North and Elmore Drive to the west. Providence Hospital and University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) are further to the west. Chester Creek runs through the Providence and UAA campuses. Several trails surround the lake, including a paved commuter bike trail. Several shelters, presumably occupied by unhoused persons, have been previously identified in the area around the lake. A childcare program operates a summer camp on the northeast shore of the lake.

The MOA closed the park on 6/30/2023 and has posted signs notifying the public of the discharge and closure. The daycare camp was also notified. Qualified personnel from U.S. Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Department of Agriculture/ Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and Alaska Department of Fish and Game have been actively engaged in hazing waterfowl away from the contaminated area as well as deploying passive hazing tactics.