The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has fined Seattle-based Trident Seafoods $30,500 for an oil spill in December 2007 that sent almost 500 gallons of fuel into the Hylebos Waterway in Commencement Bay.
The spill happened while the company’s tender vessel Bowfin was tied up at Trident Seafoods’ dock in Tacoma. A Trident Seafoods engineer began transferring diesel fuel between two tanks onboard the Bowfin. It appears a small fuel line became plugged, causing diesel to run out of a tank vent, across the deck and overboard. The company found the spill the evening of Dec. 10 after a diesel smell was traced back to the Bowfin.
“Spills like this have tremendous costs, both environmentally and financially, which is why Ecology places so much emphasis on prevention,” said Jim Sachet, regional Ecology spills response manager. “Based on our investigation, this spill was avoidable.”
Ecology, the Coast Guard and the company responded immediately. Over the course of the response, environmental contractors hired by Trident Seafoods recovered 400 gallons of the diesel. Trident Seafoods’ policy of placing protective boom around its vessels at dock helped minimize the spread of oil and improved recovery of the spilled diesel from water.
It is illegal to spill oil to state waters. Oil harms the environment, and the damage begins as soon as it hits the water. In heavily industrial areas such as Commencement Bay, spills such as this one add more toxics to an already sensitive environment.
Ecology determined this to be a negligent oil spill, which increased the total penalty. Trident Seafoods has written oil transfer procedures, but they were not followed because the engineer didn’t believe the procedures applied.
This was the second fuel spill in 2007 involving the Bowfin. In May, Ecology penalized Trident Seafoods $12,000 for a July 2007 spill that released 90 gallons of diesel oil into the Hylebos Waterway. Ecology determined negligence also played a role in that spill.
“Trident Seafoods deeply regrets this spill,” said Bob Nelson, spokesperson for the company, “We understand the importance of being a good environmental steward and believe any spill – regardless of its size – is unacceptable. “Trident Seafoods is firmly committed to safe, reliable and environmentally sound operations. This commitment is communicated from the very top of our organization to those who work aboard our vessels and at our facilities. With regard to this spill, we took prompt steps to address the root cause, including increased training, monitoring of fuel transfers and specific personnel actions,” Nelson continued.
Trident Seafoods will have 30 days to appeal the penalty to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board or ask Ecology to reconsider its decision.
(Source: Department of Ecology, State of Washington)