Department of Ecology News Release - December 21, 2011

11-360

Ecology fines Pettit Oil for February 2011 fuel spill into Chalaat Creek

OLYMPIA – Pettit Oil Company, a Washington petroleum product distributor, faces a $4,500 Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) fine for spilling diesel fuel from a tanker truck into state waters earlier this year.

In all, nearly 4,400 gallons of diesel fuel were spilled. Approximately 3,600 gallons of the total entered state waters, including Chalaat Creek and associated wetlands that belong to the Hoh Tribe. The fine was levied because it is illegal to spill oil or fuel into the waters of the state.

Ecology also billed the company $10,996 to recover the state’s costs for conducting the spill cleanup. State law requires entities that spill fuel to reimburse the state for spill response.

The spill occurred on the morning of Feb. 23, 2011, when the truck-trailer lost control in icy weather and rolled over onto its side into the east ditch off Highway 101 near milepost 167, south of Forks. The tanker truck was carrying two partitioned tanks of fuel. The rollover caused one tank to rupture and lose fuel. The fuel flowed from the accident scene, drained under the highway and made its way into the waterways.

“This was an unfortunate event, one that created significant environmental threats,” said Southwest Regional Office Spill Response Unit Supervisor Jim Sachet. “Anytime fuel is spilled into a creek or a wetland it causes damage.”

Pettit Oil, its contractors, the Washington State Patrol, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, the Washington Department of Transportation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Ecology responded to the accident. These entities worked with the Hoh Tribe to clean up the area and assess environmental impacts. Cleanup activities included:

Steps were also taken to protect the Hoh Tribe’s steelhead fish hatchery from the spill.

“Pettit took quick action to prevent a bad situation from getting worse. An unusually high percentage of oil was recovered, which prevented damage to sensitive fisheries resources downstream on the Hoh River,” Sachet said.

In all, 3,440 gallons were recovered by April 19, 2011, or about 94 percent of the fuel spilled into the waterways. Another 5,400 gallons of diesel fuel contained in the tanker truck were not spilled. This fuel was pumped off the vehicle before it was removed from the site.

While damage to the fisheries resources was averted, and the company has taken steps to mitigate damage, the company may still be liable for costs associated with damage to the creek and wetlands.

Duaine Badgley of Pettit Oil said, “It was important for Pettit Oil Co. to minimize the effects of this unfortunate accident. Pettit has arranged a direct restoration to the Hoh Tribe for environmental damages.”

Pettit Oil may appeal the penalty to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board within 30 days.

Ecology does not benefit from penalty payments. The final penalty amount owed and collected is deposited in special accounts that pay for environmental restoration and enhancement projects.

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Media Contact: Linda Kent, 360-407-6239, 360-791-9830, linda.kent@ecy.wa.gov

For more information:

Incident website (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/incidents/PettitOilSpill/PettitOilTruckSpill.html)

Photo gallery (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/incidents/PettitOilSpill/photo_gallery.html)

Ecology’s social media (www.ecy.wa.gov/about/newmedia.html)