ANCHORAGE- A Chugach State Park ranger found four 55-gallon used oil drums and four 5-gallon open buckets of other hazardous substances - including paint - at the Bird Ridge trail head at mile 102 of the Seward Highway.
The ranger reported the incident on July 8th.
State and park officials say the drums were apparently rolled down an embankment at the end of the parking lot at the trail head.
Two of the 55-gallon barrels opened after impact with a boulder and the surrounding trees -- spilling more than 100 gallons of used oil into the soil.
Used oil is a lot more viscous than gasoline, and so, the contamination was limited to the top layers of the soil.
If the spill had gone 6 months before being discovered, it would have penetrated a lot deeper into the soil.
Because the spill was on Chugach State Park land, the park is responsible for the clean-up.
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation oversaw the clean-up and testing of the site, to ensure that the contaminated soil was removed.
According to Alaska Statute, it is a crime of sabotage and pollution to dump petroleum products into the ground.
"[The Department of Enviromental Conservation] is handling the investigation right now," says Claire le Clair, operations manager of the Alaska's Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, "If they are able find somebody, it's possible that we could add a park violation to whatever charges D.E.C. would bring."
Chugach State Park officials say it removed 2.7 tons of oil, waste, soil and grass at a cost of about $1400 and the park had to close the parking lot for two-and-a-half days.
But, there are other costs.
Shannon Dewandel is an Environmental Program Specialist III for the state's Division of Spill Prevention and Response, which handles the spill response for Department of Environmental Conservation.
She says this is the fourth spill she has seen this year. The three others happened in the Matanuska-Susitna valley.
"It costs more in tourism dollars and harm to our environment to dispose of these products illegally with an illegal dump than it does to take it to a waste facility that would take it, remediate it, dispose of it appropriately," says Dewandel.
It is those costs that she hopes to prevent by educating the public.