Update: Fuel-slick cleanup after vessel sinks off Beach Drive

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Salvage and cleanup operations continue as of late Friday afternoon. We will update this story until launching a new one this evening.)

8:37 AM: Here’s what’s going on along the 5400 block of Beach Drive that has brought out the Coast Guard and the Fire Department, among others: There was a report of a boat sinking; by the time authorities arrived, it had sunk. It’s a 35-40-foot boat that’s been working on a private project along the shore.

(Photo by Christopher Boffoli for WSB)
No one is believed to have been on board. But they’re trying to evaluate what to do next. We’ve got a crew at the scene.

9:09 AM: Yes, this is what the helicopters were looking at – keep in mind that it happened before the TV morning-news daypart had ended. The boat apparently had been toting rocks related to a bulkhead-building project on shore, in tandem with a floating crane (which was not involved in the sinking). The construction crew involved with the project told WSB that the boat sunk within five minutes of starting to list. Again, no one was on board – but the boat was laden with rocks. And as commenters are pointing out, there is a fuel slick now to deal with. We’ll be tracking that part of it with authorities. Thanks, by the way, to everyone who texted/called/e-mailed/etc. about this.

(Photo by Christopher Boffoli for WSB)
9:40 AM: We’ve just gone back to check on the scene again – there’s now a containment boom out. Beach Drive Blog had covered the construction project to which this is apparently related.

10 AM UPDATE: New information from the U.S. Coast Guard: Salvage divers were summoned to the scene. The vessel that went down is described as 73 feet long. It had 300 gallons of diesel and 30 to 50 gallons of motor oil; the Coast Guard says crews were working to “plug the fuel vents” before it went down. (A neighbor tells WSB that it was listing for quite some time before it went down.) The sheen is described as 150 by 50 feet.

10:21 AM UPDATE: New photo – in addition to the boom, absorbent pads are being put in the water to help clean up the oil. The Department of Ecology is involved in this too, and says “the boat owner did not make proper notifications.” The Coast Guard says that’s Waterfront Construction, which it has labeled the “responsible party.”

12:15 PM UPDATE: Neighbor Lura (thank you!) caught the actual sinking of the vessel before it went under, which Beach Drive Blog says is the Justin, went under – we’ve tried to sharpen it up a bit; look close alongside the barge:

Also for BDB, Rob Porter reports via Twitter that water’s being pumped off the barge.

1 PM UPDATE: The Coast Guard has put together its official summary of what’s happening. New information includes news of a contractor brought in to clean up the spill.

1:23 PM UPDATE: Mike sent photos, saying some of it has washed up south of the sinking:

He’s in the 5900 block of Beach Drive, several blocks south.

4:05 PM UPDATE: Thanks to Colby Chester for a bird’s-eye view of what the slick looked like a few hours ago:

The Coast Guard has published another update, acknowledging that some of the sheen has reached the shore, and saying it appeared to be breaking up. We were down at the scene a little while ago and they were doing flyovers to gauge its size. There’s a 500-yard “safety zone” around the spill and, says the Coast Guard update, “An estimated 1,600 feet of hard boom and 300 feet of soft boom have been deployed to contain and absorb oil from the water.” They expect to continue cleanup till nightfall, and to resume it in the morning as needed; salvage operations for the sunken vessel will continue into the night. The state Ecology Department also has an update, with sheen aerials, here.

4:36 PM UPDATE: We also have heard from a spokesperson for the owners of the vessel, which they describe as 75 feet, and confirm is the Justin:

Waterfront Construction, the owner of the 75’ vessel “Justin” that sank in the Puget Sound early this morning, has contracted with NRC Environmental Services to contain the surface sheen released from the vessel.

NRC Environmental Services has multiple spill response vessels and skimmers on scene and has deployed containment boom. Additional boom is on scene and ready to be deployed as needed. Marine and shoreline emergency response trailers as well as vacuum trucks are standing by for additional support, should they be required. In the first few hours, divers were brought in to plug fuel vents to stop the release of the fuel on board. Salvage experts from Ballard Diving & Salvage have been contracted by Waterfront Construction to perform underwater inspections of the vessel and create a salvage plan to raise the ex-military Landing Craft from the Puget Sound waters as quickly and safely as possible.

“Waterfront Construction appreciates the unified response that has been assisting with this unfortunate event and is doing everything in its power to clean the waters as quickly as possible”, states Keith Landry, Project Manager of Waterfront Construction.

In a followup exchange, the spokesperson told us it’s too soon to tell how soon they will try to bring up the Justin, as they are still working on the plan.

58 Replies to "Update: Fuel-slick cleanup after vessel sinks off Beach Drive"

  • Neighborly October 14, 2011 (8:44 am)

    Thanks for the rapid posting on this. Helicopters over my house were making me worried!

  • MDurocher October 14, 2011 (8:45 am)

    There’s more than one helicopter in the area. I can’t see them, but I can hear them.

  • Nancy October 14, 2011 (8:51 am)

    Really? All that obnoxious helicopter noise for a unoccupied boat sinking? Local TV news is so silly.

  • Lola October 14, 2011 (8:51 am)

    I wondered what all the helicopter noise was over my house. I knew I would find it on the WS Blog.

    Thank you

  • jwws October 14, 2011 (8:56 am)

    That explains the King5 chopper hovering south of Genesee hill. Knew WSB would have the info! Thanks TR!

  • jim October 14, 2011 (8:59 am)

    We woke up to fire trucks and helicopter buzzing. I knew it was a sign someone was going to be having a bad day. I’m glad to year no one was hurt. And hope the cleanup of any spilled fule is swift and effective. I knew the story would be here first :-)

  • Lura Ercolano October 14, 2011 (9:06 am)

    It was one of the smaller (50-feet?) boats that are used to haul rock to and from that giant barge. It was tied up to the big barge, loaded with rocks.
    That makes this an industrial accident causing a fuel spill, environmental impact, etc. That makes it a rather big deal, even if unoccupied.

  • caspar babypants October 14, 2011 (9:07 am)

    i thought HUGE MOSQUITOES were over my house! Maybe I should write a song about them? Thanks WSB for being good and stuff.

  • Lura Ercolano October 14, 2011 (9:10 am)

    The helicopters are filming the oil slick.

  • Kbill October 14, 2011 (9:11 am)

    It’s more of an environmental concern at this point. There’s a big petroleum sheen on the water around the barge

  • Lew October 14, 2011 (9:11 am)

    Wondered why two news birds were/are lingering. Just couldn’t make out what it was. Looked out window to west, near Jacobson Rd. and saw fireboat Leschi holding position near crane barge that has been anchored there for several weeks.

    Thanks for the breaking information!

  • Scandinavian October 14, 2011 (9:20 am)

    Wow, I just had a dream last night that I was flying on a helicopter over West Seattle. That was followed by a dream I was on an out of control boat on Puget Sound. Amazing.

  • Jordan October 14, 2011 (9:40 am)

    King 5 is saying 75′ vessel.

    • WSB October 14, 2011 (9:46 am)

      Thanks – they didn’t have anyone on the ground, though, at least when we were there. Doesn’t mean that’s not newer information; we’ll be checking by phone with Ecology and Coast Guard, among others. – TR

  • Neal Chism October 14, 2011 (9:42 am)

    Oil prevention booms are stored over in the Duwamish. They should have had booms around this site in 20-30 minutes max. just in case.

  • DF October 14, 2011 (9:58 am)

    Big money involved in a project like this I imagine and now Our Puget Sound and those defenseless inhabitants of it are taking the blow. All so these SOBS can have a water view.

    This sarcastic comment by a local so called rock star above has no place in an event like this and you should be ashamed of yourself. Its pure childishness. Growup!

  • Wednesday October 14, 2011 (9:59 am)

    Yes, please do Casper babypants. My dog’s been going crazy all morning. He loves to chase helicopters.

  • nDiZzLe October 14, 2011 (10:13 am)



  • Rhonda Porter October 14, 2011 (10:15 am)

    I’m picturing the homeowner who is building the bulkhead in one of those SW Airlines “wanna get away” commercials

  • seaview October 14, 2011 (10:15 am)

    my kids have recreated the whole thing with their legos.

  • Wally October 14, 2011 (10:20 am)

    Probably more fuel burned up by the local new media’s air traffic than is on the water?

  • BigDoug October 14, 2011 (10:30 am)

    These stupid news helicopters are beginning to bug the S***T out of me!

  • Mike in the Junction October 14, 2011 (10:41 am)

    More fuel being wasted by the local media’s air traffic than is spilled on the water?

  • Grant October 14, 2011 (10:49 am)

    The helicopters woke me up on my one day off after a long day of work in Portland. Thanks, local news! Good thing you’re buzzing around for three hours, often parked right over my house, so you can film each little detail of the story.

    The helicopters are causing more environmental damage, both noise and air pollution, than the ship that sank, and for no real reason.

    Priorities, priorities.

  • RK October 14, 2011 (11:07 am)

    I love how the blame game is starting before the mess is cleaned up. Seems like a no brainer to cleanup 300 gallons quickly considering the millions of gallons that pass through Puget Sound weekly. Interesting test for the EPA to see how prepared they are! If they can’t get this right then help us if a tanker runs aground…

  • responder October 14, 2011 (11:13 am)

    Maddening…. I’m an oil spill emergency responder for MSRC. All this company does is clean up spills like this. I WAS NEVER CALLED! common people! what’s this company “waterfront construction” thinking??? when this first happened it was a very manageable spill… all they had to do was get some boom around it. Now its huge, spread out…. ridiculous.

  • HelperMonkey October 14, 2011 (11:26 am)

    nDiZzLe, you made me LOL! That was awesome.

  • annm October 14, 2011 (11:32 am)

    I think “DF” should write a song about his anger issues.

  • BooHoo October 14, 2011 (11:44 am)

    Ahh there’s that patented West Seattle Whine I was waiting for.

  • Ex-Westwood Resident October 14, 2011 (11:49 am)

    Lets get some perspective on this folks.
    300 Gallons of Diesel, which if they plugged the vents will seep out slowly. And if they didn’t will come out faster. Either way, within 12 hours it will have evaporated.
    Up to 50 gallons of motor oil. Want a nice perspective on the ratio. Take an eye dropper and drop one drop of oil into Colman Pool and you MIGHT have a somewhat close ratio.
    Now don’t get me wrong here. Clean it up before it reaches shore, but lets not get all hysterical over the “lil critters” that will be harmed by this miniscule spill.

  • Neighbor October 14, 2011 (12:03 pm)

    Think of all the seal pups around the area, this is a very fragile time for them. Lets hope they’re all gonna be fine.

  • Lolly October 14, 2011 (12:07 pm)

    Isn’t there a noise complaint hotline down at Boeing Field?

  • MargL October 14, 2011 (12:16 pm)

    Time to buy some Spillinex!

    I saw an article about this stuff down here in San Fran. Apparently a guy who used to work for a company that made surf board blanks stumbled across the fact that if you take a hand full of foam shavings from the board blanks and dump that on oil it _adorbs_ the oil, or whatever it’s dumped on, even in water, and then you can dispose of the oil/foam mix. Not a bad re-use of something that’s going to go into the garbage anyway…

  • Mandy October 14, 2011 (12:20 pm)

    @Neighbor…that’s exactly what I was logging on to comment about. Has anyone alerted the Seal Sitter folks? They should maybe be briefed / be prepared to help some oiled-up-pups. :(

    Hoping that best for the pups…

  • Yeah... October 14, 2011 (12:41 pm)

    I didn’t realize that diesel evaporates, ex-Westwood. To think of all the time and money we’ve wasted over the years trying to clean up oil spills…

  • caspar babypants October 14, 2011 (12:56 pm)

    sorry! I made that comment when I didnt know about the oil slick! or that the helicopters would hover for hours and scare dogs! sorry.

  • Ex-Westwood Resident October 14, 2011 (12:57 pm)

    GET A GRIP PEOPLE!!!! It’s 50 GALLONS NOT 50,000. The currents in the sound will dissipate to 1 part in the millions in less time than it took to write this!!!
    More oil is dumped into the sound on a hot summer day by pleasure craft.

  • Neal Chism October 14, 2011 (1:17 pm)

    This was a small spill Ex-Westwood, however we all pay a lot of taxes to have very capable spill response teams and hardware in place to deal with these events.
    Whether it was 50 or 50,000 gallons you get a standard response from the agencies. But no call, no response. And that is the issue today.
    These teams practice often and care a great deal like the rest of us do about the Sound. Today was a very good test case for the system, a small spill 200 yards off the shoreline. A highly visible test case too, and we also had spill hardware stored less than three nautical miles away. So the delay in response was pretty apparent to a lot of people who are involved in this.
    So it begs the question of what happens when, as an earlier entry mentioned about millions of gallons of fuel moving up and down the sound, when that big tanker manages to wrap itself around Blake Island in the middle of the night?
    You don’t need to have a fire department if no one calls when a fire breaks out.
    On a personal note, I am just not too sure why the Sheriffs Dept. has to spool up the old Jet Ranger for every oil spill response…?

  • Ex-Westwood Resident October 14, 2011 (1:27 pm)


    Diesel and oil are two DIFFERENT things. Diesel, along with gasoline, kerosene, JP5…etc will evaporate rather quickly depending on the air temp, water temp, clouds or sun, rain or not, high winds or calm. Some components of oil, crude or other, on the other hand will evaporate, the rest usually sinks to the bottom where micro organisms can break it down. The problem with big spills is that there is so much oil the it WILL affect the environment.
    The type of oil also plays a factor. Light “Sweet” (Gulf of Mexico type, for example) crude is far easier to clean up than the heavy, high sulfur crude that Purdue Bay produces.
    You can see it in action, just place some gasoline in a glass jar and the same amount in another jar and place them outside. Depending on the amount you will see that the gas evaporation is noticeable.

  • Ex-Westwood Resident October 14, 2011 (1:30 pm)


    Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying that a call should not have been made. EVERY spill needs to taken care ASAP, but I’m just pointing out the “Chicken Little” mentality about this.

  • NotMe October 14, 2011 (1:32 pm)

    Man, the finger pointing and passive aggressive poo is only eclipsed by the ignorant stating of “facts” that have no basis. Both of these things make me worry about talking to people that live here and the latter makes me laugh – and not want to talk to people that live here. Lol… unbelievable.

  • April October 14, 2011 (1:44 pm)

    Caspar Babypants rocks! He didn’t say anything wrong. Give him a break. Sheesh.

  • Ricky October 14, 2011 (1:45 pm)

    Im sure the seal pups will be just fine! Let’s not get too spooled up about this, it’s not an oil tanker….

  • Tony Ercolano October 14, 2011 (1:45 pm)

    I watched “most” of what happen from my window this morning. I’m on the beach and about 10 houses or so south of the construction. I have a few different binoculars and a large 10 inch reflector telescope that I was using during this time to observe. I can’t tell you the eye color people on the barge have but I can sure tell whether they have a beard or a mustache. I was on the phone describing things to the coast guard response center as the boat finally sank.

    1) It took at least 20 minutes from the time I noticed something wrong until the boat sank. The crewman was doing something on the main barge the entire time and clearly aware that something was wrong.

    2) I’m at a real loss on how the homeowners could be considered to have done something wrong here. They are replacing an older riprap bulkhead with a new riprap one. This is NOT cheap and the shoreline agencies won’t let you touch things unless you really really have to AND you improving things environmentally over the current situation. Any construction along the beach here takes an long time to insure that conservation of the beach environment is improved over what had been there before and it’s ALL paid for by the owners of the property. Most of us who live along here LOVE the beach that we own. (That’s why we live HERE.) We keep our beaches about as close to natural you can get anywhere in a major city.

    3) Looks like a diver is preparing to go into the water.

  • TylerDurden October 14, 2011 (1:51 pm)

    Typical West Seattle “whine”:

  • DR October 14, 2011 (1:57 pm)

    I live near by. I am fairly confident more than 300 gallons of jet fuel were used to cover this event.

  • Hat momma October 14, 2011 (3:35 pm)

    DF – why does it always have to come down to money? The whining about people (or SOBS as you so lovingly refer to them) with money who wish to have a view is not a big problem in society. Take your anger out on something productive. It’s getting old.
    -and for disclosure purposes I don’t live on the water or have a screamin’ view.

  • Ex-Westwood Resident October 14, 2011 (3:46 pm)

    Well Hat there are those that believe that no one should have anything more than any one else.
    You know like every one should own a house before anyone can own two; if one person drives a BMW then all should drive one…etc.

  • WTF October 14, 2011 (4:00 pm)

    IT SINKS! And, they don’t notify the Coast Guard? I so hope that there is serious hell to pay.

  • Jordan October 14, 2011 (4:50 pm)

    Does any one know if this will effect the vashon ferry?

    • WSB October 14, 2011 (5:16 pm)

      Not at this point, it’s a mile north of the run.

  • Wednesday October 14, 2011 (5:55 pm)

    How deep did it sink?

  • Mel October 14, 2011 (6:25 pm)

    I feel like Charleton Heston’s character when he saw the half buried Statue of Liberty at the end of The Planet of the Apes, and spoke those heart breaking words I will never forget: “God Dxmx them all to Hell!” And like him, I too have lost my will to live.

  • Amy October 14, 2011 (6:44 pm)

    I wonder how many people are being employed by those “SOBS”?

    I sense a bit of green monster creeping in….

    Those evil waterfront dwelling folks.

    (which I am not)

  • Scandinavian October 14, 2011 (7:28 pm)

    Sorry. I apologize to all. “The Blob” did NOT attack the Vashon ferry. Sorry WSB. LOL

    • WSB October 14, 2011 (7:33 pm)

      Scandy, Google gets weird on us and pulls up comments sometimes as story summaries. So next thing you know, if we let that kind of thing through, there could be full-blown Blob Panic. Anyway, seriously, this isn’t really a trifling incident. Was just down there about the time of that amazing sunset. Vessels, booms, cranes, Coast Guard patrols … and some of the aircraft from earlier was surveying the extent of the spill; it wasn’t just live-shot-seeking TV choppers. I’m glad we get this sort of thing so seldom that this size of incident is a Big Deal, but wish it hadn’t happened at all. Just the everyday use brings enough toxicity into the water …

  • Scandinavian October 14, 2011 (7:48 pm)


    Agreed. Sorry. But when someone asked if the Vashon ferry was affected, I thought it rather odd. And the earlier “rock star’ comment was VERY odd. I put the two together and “struck out”. Again, sorry. No longer LOL.

Sorry, comment time is over.