The owner of a tug that released oily bilge water into the Columbia River last year is being penalized $21,000 by the Washington Department of Ecology. Sound Freight Lines’ tug Black Hawk discharged an estimated 150 gallons of lubricating and diesel oils while transiting near Willow Grove on the Columbia River during the morning hours of Jan. 29, 2009.
The sheen went unreported until mid-day when observers on the river called the U.S. Coast Guard and Ecology. By then, it was too late for responders to do more than collect samples for further investigation.
Ecology spills investigators collected samples from all the commercial vessels that had been in the area at the time of the spill and were able to match the oily discharge to the Black Hawk’s bilge contents.
“In general, the shipping industry is very careful in handling fuel, lube oil and bilge slops on the Columbia River and Puget Sound. This incident involving the Black Hawk was avoidable and should not have happened,” said Jim Sachet, Ecology’s spill response manager for the Southwest Region.
Washington’s natural resources are at risk whenever oil is spilled. Even small amounts of oil increase the level of toxics already burdening the Columbia River.
Unauthorized discharges of oil to state waters are illegal in Washington, and spillers must report any discharges as well as take steps to collect and remove the pollution. Ecology determined the tug and its corporate owner were unresponsive to the discharge, resulting in a $21,000 penalty.
Ecology is also ordering the company to reimburse the state $12,600 for the costs of the response efforts.
Sound Freight Lines has 30 days to appeal Ecology’s penalty with the state Pollution Control Hearings Board or file an application for relief before the full amount is due.