Washington State Department of Ecology - June 13, 2013

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Two companies face fines for violations related to Hylebos Waterway oil spill

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has fined Tacoma Industrial Properties  (TIP) $20,000 for an unpermitted barge deconstruction on its property along Taylor Road in Tacoma, and RV Associates $4,800 for spilling oil to the Hylebos Waterway as a result of deconstructing the barge.

In June 2012, TIP hired contractor RV Associates of Port Orchard to drag the barge onto land owned by TIP and deconstruct it. As RV Associates demolished the barge, about 25 gallons of oil were released into the Hylebos Waterway, causing a visible oil sheen that covered about 1 million square feet. Ecology responded to reports of this sheen June 21, 2012.

The Hylebos Waterway leads to Commencement Bay in Puget Sound and is fed by Hylebos Creek, which has Chinook, pink, coho and chum salmon runs and is habitat for other aquatic and bird species.

The derelict vessel known as the Hauff Barge – the middle section of an old vessel that had been converted into a barge at some time in the past – had been situated adjacent to the TIP property for many years.

Greg Zentner, Ecology’s Water Quality Program southwest section manager, said:  “When permits are authorized, companies are required to handle and dispose of all pollutants – including demolition debris that occurs on site – in a manner that does not cause contamination. This vessel demolition activity obviously was not conducted in an appropriate manner, as evidenced by the release of oil to the waterway, shoreline and ground.”

TIP had attained the necessary permits to demolish an old concrete grain storage facility on the site, crush the concrete and use it as base fill for a large paved parking area.

The permits did not authorize work to dismantle the barge. Scrapping barges and vessels often involves managing liquid fuels and oils, which pose different pollution risks to water quality. A special type of permit is required by federal and state water protection laws – called an individual shipyard National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

Improper vessel deconstruction can lead to significant environmental damages and costs. For example, Ecology and the U.S. Coast Guard responded to an oil release from an unpermitted scrap metal salvage of the Davy Crockett in the Columbia River in January 2011. The resulting 295-day response recovered 38,000 gallons of heavy bunker oil, 1.6 million gallons in oily water and cost $22 million.

Jim Sachet, Ecology’s Ecology Southwest Regional Office spill response unit supervisor, said: “Getting the proper permits and following the correct practices is essential to preventing pollution to our waterways. Employees need training to prevent potential spills and need equipment to be immediately available for responding to spills. Even a small amount of oil can cause a large amount of damage. All waters of Puget Sound are sensitive habitat for fish and other marine life. The Hylebos Waterway is a convergence area for numerous salmon runs, so it’s important to keep it clean.”

Hauff Barge incident background

Ecology received a report on June 21, 2012, of a large oil sheen moving down the Hylebos Waterway, near where the ferry Kalakala was moored. Ecology spill responders determined the sheen was associated with the Hauff Barge, which had been pulled up on shore and was being deconstructed. Responders observed a floating barrier of absorbent material, or boom, had been placed under the back of the barge. The area inside the boom was filled with oily residue and sheen, but oil was seen escaping from this initial line of boom causing sheen on the waterway. 

Problems with this vessel are not new. In November 2008, the Coast Guard hired a diving contractor to plug vents and pipes on the barge and pump off the pockets of oil on the barge that could be safely accessed.  Ecology issued a $1,750 penalty to the owner of the barge, John Hauff Jr., and a $10,169 bill for state expenses related to the 2008 activity, as required by state law. Neither the penalty nor the bill has been paid.  Since then, Ecology received at least 20 reports of sheens on the Hylebos Waterway. The Hauff Barge is suspected to be the source of many of those.  

After confirming that the sheen observed on June 21, 2012, was coming from the barge, Ecology requested that RV Associates obtain and deploy hard boom around the back of the vessel, and put fresh absorbents inside of it to soak up oil. The company immediately hired a contractor to fulfill these requests.

Tacoma Industrial Properties and RV Associates may appeal the penalties to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board within 30 days.

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

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Media Contacts:

Linda Kent, Ecology media relations, (360) 791-9830, linda.kent@ecy.wa.gov

For more information:

Ecology spills program (http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/spills.html)

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