NOTICE: Ecology's web applications will be unavailable Wednesday, Nov. 29 from 5:30 to 7:30pm, for scheduled maintenance.

Spills photo identifier

Spills Program

Enforcement Page Banner

Spills Enforcement

Most individuals and companies comply with the State’s environmental laws and rules. In Ecology's experience, most failures to comply are often a misunderstanding of what is required. Ecology provides technical assistance and education to bridge the gap in knowledge and encourage voluntary compliance.

When educational efforts are not enough, Ecology uses increasingly stringent enforcement tools to gain compliance. From warning letters to administrative penalties, and, if appropriate, criminal prosecution, Ecology works to ensure enforcement of the laws and rules it administers is fair, impartial, effective and, in the end, provides positive outcomes for the health of the State’s environment and citizens. As our role moves from educator to enforcer, Ecology works to match the significance of the violation to the appropriate enforcement tool. Regardless of the severity of the action, all enforcement must be:

  • Timely.
  • Authorized by statute.
  • Based on findings supported by available evidence.
  • Appropriate to the violation.
  • issued in writing.
  • Signed by the person with authority to issue that action.

Ecology's most effective enforcement tool is a warning issued with educational information. At the same time, Ecology may determine an oil spill was preventable or particularly egregious, and issue a significant penalty. Even a penalty may produce a positive environmental outcome. Ecology often accepts funding or performance of a project that enhances essential habitat, usually in or near the area where an oil spill has occurred.

Spill Enforcement Actions By Year

Year Volume Spilled
Warnings Notices of Violation Notices of Correction Administrative Orders Penalties Amount Assessed Amount Paid
2010 2476 63 2 4 3 38 $124,250.00 $89,700.00
2011 5232 58 3 6 3 34 $155,675.00 $138,434.72
2012 6837 130 4 5 3 44 $160,000.00 $75,950.00
2013 8909 86 5 4 1 52 $491,550.00 $93,700.00
2014 2797 88 2 4 0 28 $475,604.00 $40,620.00

Further information about the column headers used in the table above:

  • Volume Spilled: Total volume spilled to state waters for which an enforcement action was issued.
  • Warnings: Issued for first-time or minor violations, vessel inspections, and spills less than 25 gallons to water.
  • Notices of Violation: Issued when there is an ongoing violation or substantial threat of a violation but immediate action is not necessary.
  • Notices of Correction: Issued in lieu of a penalty and when
    • the violator was not previously subject to enforcement or notice for the same or similar violations.
    • the violator has not failed to comply with a prior notice.
    • the violation does pose a risk of death or bodily harm to a person, more than minor environmental harm, or property damage worth more than a $1,000.
  • Administrative Orders: Issued for a violation, or when there is substantial potential for violation, and either the responsible party failed to respond adequately to a Notice of Violation, or immediate action is deemed necessary.
  • Penalties: Issued for spills or violations that are significant, cause or risk environmental harm, could have been prevented, are repeat offenses, or are negligent, reckless, or intentional.
  • Amount Assessed: Total amount of money assessed by penalties issued by Ecology.
  • Amount Paid: Total amount amount paid by those who received penalties.

Click on the chart to enlarge.

Enforcement actions chart
*The following graphs are based on the data from the table above.

View an interactive map of spill incidents.

Interactive map of spill incidents