Department of Ecology News Release - January 29, 2013

13-033

Ecology fines Trident Seafoods $37,500 following 2011 fuel spill to Tacoma’s Hylebos Waterway

OLYMPIA – Under a legal agreement between the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) and Seattle-based Trident Seafoods Corp. (“Trident”), Ecology has agreed to suspend $30,000 of a $67,500 penalty. The suspended $30,000 penalty will be forgiven after three years under certain conditions, including Trident continuing its voluntary environmental audit program and avoiding any negligent vessel oil spills greater than 25 gallons.

Trident also agreed to continue holding regular employee compliance briefings and to implement commercially reasonable modifications as they are identified under the voluntary audit program. 

On Oct. 15, 2011, the 195-foot Trident fishing tender vessel Eastern Wind spilled 232 gallons of diesel fuel to the Port of Tacoma’s Hylebos Waterway. The spill happened when a fuel tank overfilled during an internal transfer operation.

Ecology determined the diesel fuel spill was the result of negligence because Trident failed to properly monitor the ongoing internal fuel transfer operation.

The spill triggered the company to pay a $34,000 penalty that was part of a 2009 settlement between Trident and Ecology after company vessels were involved in negligent oil spills in 2008 and 2009.

Dale Jensen, Ecology’s Spills Program manager, said: “Our top priority is working to prevent spills from occurring in the first place and this incident clearly should have been prevented. It damaged our waters and adversely impacted Puget Sound – which so many people are working hard to restore, protect and preserve.”

Jensen said it is illegal to spill any amount of oil to state waters. State law authorizes Ecology to set higher penalty amounts for spills determined to be the result of negligence.

Once the spill was discovered, Trident immediately shut down the fuel transfer and notified proper authorities, including Ecology. As a standard practice, the company had placed oil containment boom around the Eastern Wind prior to fueling which kept fuel from spreading further into the waterway and helping ensure a rapid cleanup.

Under the new agreement signed by Trident and Ecology, the company will immediately pay $34,000 of the 2009 suspended penalty plus a $3,500 penalty for the October 2011 incident – a total state fine of $37,500.

Trident also waives its right to appeal and agrees to a number of stipulations designed to reduce the oil spill risks from its vessels.

At the time of the October 2011 spill, Trident was planning a safety and environmental audit of its 40 vessels, and implemented the program shortly after the spill. Under the review program, the company evaluates its existing staffing, equipment and operations to determine where it can improve its procedures to increase vessel safety and protect the environment. 

Trident expects all of its large vessels will be audited before Dec. 31, 2012, while its smaller vessels will be audited by 2015.

In addition, the company agreed to conduct separate briefings with its vessel officers and oil handling crews during the next six months to ensure its staff understand and adhere to Trident policies and procedures.

If Trident has oil spill caused by negligence during the next three years, Ecology will reinstate the $30,000 suspended penalty.

Jensen said: “We applaud the fact that Trident has good practices in place, like pre-deploying booms, to address potential spills. Still, oil spills are toxic pollutants and impact the environmental health of our waters so ongoing, focused vigilance is always required. That’s why we’re pleased that the company is taking additional measures to prevent future spills.”

Besides the penalty, Trident has also paid the state a $2,086 assessment for damages the October 2011 spill caused to the public’s environmental resources. The assessment is based on the amount spilled and the resources it placed at risk.

The company also will reimburse the state about $4,000 for expenses incurred responding to and cleaning up the spill.

“Trident deeply regrets this spill and takes full responsibility for the incident,” said company spokesperson Joe Misenti. “We understand the importance of being a good environmental steward and are taking affirmative steps through an independent environmental audit program and compliance briefings to avoid further spills.”

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 contacts:

Linda Kent, Ecology media relations, 360-407-6239, 360-791-9830 (cell), llinda.kent@ecy.wa.gov

Joe Misenti, Trident Seafoods media relations, 206-297-6559; jmisenti@tridentseafoods.com

For more information:

Ecology Spills Program (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/spills.html)

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

Earlier news releases on Trident Seafoods vessel spills:

Jan. 23, 2009 (www.ecy.wa.gov/news/2009news/2009-024.html)

Nov. 14, 2008 (www.ecy.wa.gov/news/2008news/2008-293.html)

May 29, 2008 (www.ecy.wa.gov/news/2008news/2008-144.html)