Washington State Bolsters Spill Prevention and Response

Tuesday, August 15, 2006
In anticipation of adopting new safeguards regarding oil transfers over water and early spill response requirements, the Department of Ecology (Ecology) has added new spill prevention inspectors, a spill responder and a contingency plan reviewer to oversee mobile oil facilities.

For the first time, Ecology is stationing a vessel and oil-handling facility inspector and a hazardous material responder in Bellingham. Both positions will focus on prevention and response activities in Island, San Juan, Skagit and Whatcom counties. There are three oil refineries and two oil pipelines in the region that generate heavy ship traffic in northwest Washington.

To prevent oil spills in the Puget Sound and lower Columbia River, the department has added four inspectors. They will provide technical assistance and oversee oil transfers involving tank vessels, cargo, fishing and passenger ships, oil storage facilities, marinas and, for the first time, tank trucks and rail cars. Ecology is currently reviewing and preparing a formal response to public comments on the department's three proposed rules designed to prevent oil spills into Washington waters and improve response readiness.

The public comment period for the draft rules ended July 26 and the agency anticipates implementing the measures this fall. Under the draft oil transfer rules, some vessels and oil-handling facilities would be required to deploy oil-spill containment boom prior to transferring oil when it is safe and effective to do so.

The governor has enlisted the Puget Sound Partnership, a public/private group of the region's leading citizens, to develop an aggressive 15-year plan to solve Puget Sound's most vexing environmental problems. The Partnership will present its recommendations in November.

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