Department of Ecology News Release - August 15, 2012


Ecology requires better protection after series of small oil spills from Arctic Challenger project

BELLINGHAM – The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) is requiring improved protection for Bellingham Bay during work on the oil-containment barge Arctic Challenger.

Superior Energy Services is building an oil-containment system on a barge at the Bellingham Shipping Terminal, 629 Cornwall Ave. Shell will use the barge at offshore drilling sites in the Alaskan Arctic. In the event of an oil spill, the barge is designed to lower a large dome over the leaking oil, capture it, and pump it onto the barge.

Since July 24, 2012, the construction project has resulted in three hydraulic oil spills, about a quart each, from the barge, and a diesel fuel spill, estimated at less than 20 gallons, from a work boat to Whatcom Waterway.

On Thursday, Aug. 9, Ecology issued a notice of correction, requiring Superior to take specific steps to prevent further hydraulic spills including:

Superior has 24 hours from the time it receives Ecology’s notice to employ the corrective measures, and seven days to provide a report to Ecology that describes how the company is prepared to respond to spills.

Ecology continues to investigate the spills and is considering additional enforcement actions.

In addition to the notice of correction and potential enforcement, Ecology is requiring lead construction contractor Greenberry Industrial to conduct its operation as if it was covered under an industrial stormwater discharge permit. The project was scheduled to be completed in July. Because it can take up to two months to obtain permit coverage, Ecology used its discretion to allow Superior to continue working as long as it meets permit requirements.

“Small spills lead to bigger spills,” said Dale Jensen, manager of Ecology’s Spill Prevention, Preparedness and Response program. “Our hope is that the companies that are gearing up for oil work in Alaska and spilling here will learn from our work with them and ensure spills of all sizes are prevented everywhere they work.”


Media Contact: Katie Skipper, 360-715-5205 work, 360-510-0682 mobile,

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