ReDoubt + Chevron = Formula for Disaster

Chevron owns and operates an extensive system of crude oil and natural gas pipelines in the United States. They also own numerous tank farms to support this system; one of which happens to be at the base of Mt. ReDoubt where the Drift River empties into Cook Inlet. That's right, Chevron built an oil tank farm at the base of an active volcano on the shores of Cook Inlet.

Up until now, Chevron has refused to divulge how much oil is being harbored at the tank farm. They have remained silent, standing behind the pretense of The Homeland Security Act.

Only after ReDoubt erupted numerous times at the beginning of the week did Chevron finally come forth and reveal that there are over 6 million gallons of oil contained in two of the seven tanks at the terminal. Chevron evacuated their personnel from the facility on Monday.

Chevron issued a press release and photos just yesterday, claiming in their written statement that the dikes and containment walls have performed as intended, although the photos exhibit clearly that the containment walls are being stressed. Mud flow and debris have topped the outside dike, and buildings have been damaged at the terminal.

Mt. ReDoubt is less than 25 miles from the Chevron facility, and the Drift River is currently flooding because of the recent eruptions. The high water marks on the valley walls are estimated at 20 - 25 ft. The lahars from an eruption displace massive chunks of glacial ice and rock, some as big as houses, which are then swept downstream by the Drift River. Deposits from the lahars during the last major eruption in 1990 buried structures at the mouth of the Drift River.

Mt. ReDoubt is still active, and under a Code Red aviation alert. There were two more small eruptions recorded this morning. There have been 8 eruptions since Sunday. Further activity is anticipated. It should also be noted that the eruptions of 1989-1990 continued for a period of 5 months. More than 20 eruptions occurred during that cycle - with the most violent eruption coming at the end of the period.

Chevron is being called on to remove the oil from their tanks by various agencies, but they have made no commitment to doing so at this time. The real question is, can we afford to wait, and risk an environmental disaster similar to what happened in Valdez?

- photo of 1990 eruption by J. Warren, courtesy of AVO