Tug Grounds on Same Reef as Exxon Valdez
Ship was scouting ice to prevent accidents; 3rd recent spill in area
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 25, 2009 11:19 AM CST
The tug Pathfinder is surrounded by a spill containment boom Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009, in Prince William Sound, Alaska. It is the left of the two boats at the bottom right of photo.   (Marc Lester)
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(Newser) – Two decades after the Exxon Valdez disaster, a tugboat working to prevent another oil spill in Alaska's Prince William Sound ran aground on the same reef, leaving a three-mile sheen of oil. The 136-foot tug Pathfinder had just finished checking for dangerous ice when it hit Bligh Reef. Alaska Sen. Mark Begich said it was troubling that a spill response vessel "managed to run aground on one of the most well marked and well known reefs in the northern hemisphere."

It wasn't immediately known how much spilled. The Coast Guard said yesterday that two of its tanks—containing an estimated 33,500 gallons of diesel fuel—were damaged. Coast Guard Lt. Erin Christensen said an estimate on how much fuel spilled couldn't be done until the fuel was off-loaded today. Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell had sharp words for Alaska's oil industry, noting that there had been three "significant" recent spills in the Prudehoe Bay oil fields.