(October 2011 photo by Colby Chester)
The state has just announced an $18,000 fine for a fuel spill related to last October’s sinking of a construction company’s landing craft off Beach Drive. The sinking, and raising, of the Justin played out over two days, last October 14th (WSB stories here and here) and 15th (coverage here and here). The state’s announcement today also reveals that the size of the spill was determined to be 320 gallons, and that more assessments may be forthcoming:
The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has fined Waterfront Construction Inc. (Waterfront) of Seattle $18,000 for spilling 320 gallons of diesel fuel in Puget Sound off West Seattle in October 2011.
The company also faces more than $32,000 in additional assessments for environmental damage and state costs associated with responding to the spill.
Waterfront’s 74-foot, 1950s-vintage military landing craft, the Justin, sunk on the morning of Oct. 14, 2011, while moored off a work site along the shoreline about two miles south of Alki Point. The vessel was delivering boulders for a construction project.
Although Waterfront failed to notify Ecology of the oil spill, the company did hire salvage and environmental cleanup contractors to respond to the incident. They refloated and removed the vessel the next day.
After the Justin was raised, inspectors found two half-inch holes in a corroded section of the hull.
“Much as we value and appreciate the company’s response to the spill, this fine is for the failure to prevent this incident and make required notifications to Ecology,” said Dale Jensen, who manages Ecology’s spill prevention, preparedness and response program. “Our investigation shows that Waterfront neglected to properly inspect and maintain this vessel. Therefore it sank, spilled fuel and damaged our waters.”
The company bought the craft in 2009 from a private party who had moored the vessel, unused, in Tacoma for two years. The Justin underwent no professional inspection before or after the sale.
The Justin had six compartments below its deck designed to keep the vessel floating in case of hull damage during a landing. Clamps to tighten access hatches to the compartments were painted open or damaged, so the covers could not be fully closed. The company also failed to maintain on-board bilge pumps, and relied instead on the use of portable pumps.
The Justin’s operator arrived at 7:30 a.m. on Oct. 14, 2011 to find one compartment flooding, with water spilling into other compartments. The vessel sank quickly, bow first.
“At Waterfront we advocate a high priority for environmental protection and stewardship in our day to day operations,” said owner Paul Wilcox. “Much of what we do is to provide mitigation solutions for waterfront projects. The sinking of the Justin was an unfortunate event and we are taking significant steps to avoid this sort of thing in the future.”
Ecology penalties may be appealed to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board.
Besides the $18,000 fine, Ecology has billed Waterfront $25,254 to recover the state’s costs for responding to the spill and overseeing its cleanup. In addition, the state issued a $6,935 assessment in January 2012 for damages the spill caused to the public’s environmental resources. The assessment is based on the amount spilled and the resources it placed at risk.