Popular Anchorage dog park remains closed after oil spill

A man in a kayak near lines of yellow floats
A U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist in a kayak keeps birds away from the oil spill on University Lake on Thursday. (Dev Hardikar/Alaska Public Media)

An oil spill has indefinitely closed a popular Anchorage dog park.

The spill was first reported last week at University Lake, and cleanup is still underway. Kelly Rawalt, a spokesperson for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said crews’ quick response kept the spill from spreading too far.

“We were able to corral that spill area to a pretty small portion of the lake on the south-southwest,” she said. “And so the rest of the lake has been fairly clean as far as being able to see a visible sheen or smell it.”

The spill was contained with lines of floating yellow booms, which absorb oil and act as a barrier.

Rawalt said they have been keeping wildlife out of the small contaminated area. On Thursday, U.S. Fish and Wildlife staff paddled out in kayaks to scare birds away from the spill. Workers also stood by the water’s edge with a long vacuum, sucking the oil into a truck onshore. 

Rawalt said the spill came from an oil-water separator in the drainage system, which is supposed to collect runoff, remove any oil and release clean water. She said the separator likely flooded and spilled over.

“You know, it’s all this rain lately. It’s just been raining non-stop. And so that’s been, I think, part of what contributed to it overflowing so quickly and why we’ve been monitoring it so closely, because we have a lot of extra runoff lately,” said Rawalt.

The DEC is still investigating the source of the oil that the separator collected. Its initial estimates show about 20 gallons of oil spilled into the lake. 

University Lake dog park remained closed Friday morning. Rawalt said it’s still unclear when the park will reopen.

A sign that reads "University Lake Park CLOSED. Under recommendation from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), University Lake Park is CLOSED until further notice due to a fuel spill impacting the lake. We will reopen the park as soon as DEC indicates it is safe to do so. For additional info, please contact DEC at 907-269-7500."
The University Lake dog park remains cordoned off by caution tape and orange fencing. (Dev Hardikar/Alaska Public Media)

Dev Hardikar was Alaska Public Media's 2023 summer news intern. Reach him at dhardikar@alaskapublic.org.

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