Duwamish Waterway Jet Fuel Spill

(Information on this site is considered to be accurate at the time of posting, but is subject to change as new information becomes available.)  

Wednesday, 6/29/11 - 8:25 am 

Boeing fined $102,000 for Duwamish fuel spill

The Washington Department of Ecology has fined The Boeing Company (Boeing) $102,000 for spilling an estimated 300 gallons of jet fuel into the Duwamish Waterway in Seattle last year.

The spill occurred May 28, 2010, at a Boeing fuel terminal in south Seattle near the waterway. A tank truck was delivering jet fuel to an aboveground storage tank at the Boeing terminal. A terminal operator heard and smelled leaking fuel and immediately stopped the delivery. 

At the time – the Friday evening of the 2010 Memorial Day weekend – Boeing staff believed a large stormwater vault had contained the spill on the company’s property and the fuel had not entered the Duwamish. On Tuesday morning, however, the company realized fuel had reached the waterway, and reported the spill to Ecology and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Washington law and the facility’s water quality permit issued by Ecology require immediate reporting of oil spills – including spills to stormwater systems – to state and federal authorities.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, May 29, 2010, Ecology and the Coast Guard received citizen reports of oil in the Duwamish. State and federal responders found oil in the mouth of Slip 4, a Duwamish inlet several dozen yards downstream from the Boeing facility. The Coast Guard hired a cleanup contractor, but the oil had spread out on the water into a coating too thin for cleanup. 

Ecology later matched oil samples from the river and from the Boeing facility to identify the Friday night incident as the source of the oil seen Saturday on the waterway.

Besides the penalty, Ecology also billed Boeing $5,500 to recover the state’s costs for conducting the spill cleanup and investigation. 

“This incident highlights why spillers must immediately report all oil spills to state and federal authorities, even if a spill seems contained,” said Dale Jensen, who manages Ecology’s spill prevention, preparedness and response program, “Since the spill wasn’t reported to us quickly, we lost any opportunity to mount a rapid, aggressive and well-coordinated response to protect the environment.”   

During the May 28 fuel delivery, company staff found an open three-quarter-inch maintenance valve that should have been closed. Some incoming jet fuel flowed through the open valve into a 19,000-gallon underground stormwater vault.  The vault empties into an oil-water separator that discharges to the stormwater system.

Besides the open valve, an automatic pump that empties the vault was left on – even though the company’s oil spill prevention plan requires that power be off during fuel deliveries.

Workers closed the valve and cut power to the pump.

Boeing staff then checked for oil in catch basins along part of the storm line. Since they saw no signs of oil, they resumed the fuel delivery. However, staff on scene did not know that one catch basin contained a special filter that – unless removed – blocked a view of the water in the storm drain.

On Tuesday morning, June 1, 2010, Boeing contacted Ecology and the Coast Guard to report finding oil at the riverbank around the storm drain outfall – three days after the spill occurred.   

Ecology’s Jensen said, “Once they determined what happened, Boeing cooperated fully with our investigation. Unfortunately, there was negligence in failing to check the required settings before the fuel transfer, in the oversights during the first check of the storm drain line, and in not immediately reporting the spill. These factors significantly increased the penalty.”

On realizing the spill had reached the waterway, Boeing placed oil cleanup materials around the outfall. The company then conducted an independent cleanup around the outfall to remove waterway sediments contaminated by the spill and replace them with clean materials. 

Boeing estimated that it lost about 6,600 gallons of fuel through the open maintenance valve into the stormwater vault.  Approximately 300 gallons discharged into the storm drain and into the Duwamish. 

Mary Armstrong, Boeing vice president of Environment, Health and Safety, said: "Once we discovered the spill, Boeing worked with the U.S. Coast Guard, EPA, Ecology and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to contain and clean up the fuel. We fully restored the shoreline by excavating the contaminated sediment and soil, and replaced it with clean sand. We removed more than 30 creosote-coated pilings and additional riprap, and created an intertidal habitat that looks like a natural shoreline. To ensure that this type of spill won’t happen again, Boeing launched a special effort to strengthen reporting procedures and safeguards at all of our fuel tank locations throughout the company.”

The company has the right to appeal Ecology’s penalty to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board within 30 days.

Spill penalties fund environmental restoration projects in Washington. 

Prevention, preparedness, and response to fuel and other oil spills are parts of Ecology’s commitment to protect against toxic threats to people and the environment and to meet the state’s goal of protecting and restoring Puget Sound by 2020.

Friday, 6/10/10 - 11:30 am 

Duwamish spill investigation continues

Ecology has determined that the May 29 oil spill was jet fuel. The Boeing Company, which operates a jet fuel terminal nearby, is cooperating with Ecology’s investigation.  Ecology and the Coast Guard responded to a report of oil in the Duwamish Waterway on Saturday morning, May 29.  There was no known source of the oil sheen found in the vicinity of Slip 4, an inlet on the east bank between the First Avenue South and 16th Avenue South bridges.  Responders took samples for laboratory analysis to determine the type of fuel involved.  During the Saturday morning response, the Coast Guard used a federal oil spill contingency fund to hire a cleanup contractor.  Oil recovery continued that morning while the tidal conditions permitted recovery efforts. 

On Tuesday morning, June 1, Boeing informed Ecology that the company had responded to a jet fuel spill that occurred Friday night, May 28, at the company’s facility.  Boeing officials originally believed the spill was contained within the terminal.  Ecology collected samples from the terminal to compare with the earlier samples.

Ecology’s preliminary laboratory results indicate that the fuel in the waterway on Saturday was jet fuel.  Additional information – still being gathered and analyzed – indicates that jet fuel at Boeing’s facility flowed from the site on the night of May 28 and through a private stormwater line that empties into the Duwamish Waterway.  Witnesses who made the Saturday morning report to Ecology also reported a petroleum odor along the waterway Friday night.

Investigators will continue to examine the incident.  Boeing continues its efforts to clean out the drain line and affected shoreline areas on the company’s property.  The on-water portion of the spill dissipated with wind and tides May 29. 

Thursday, 6/9/10 - 11:00 am

Update on spill located south of slip 4 in Duwamish Waterway

Ecology determined the May 29 oil spill in the Slip 4 area of the Lower Duwamish Waterway was jet fuel.  The incident remains under investigation.  The Boeing Company, which operates a jet fuel terminal at Plant 2, is cooperating with Ecology in this investigation.  

Ecology and the Coast Guard responded to reports of an oil sheen on the Duwamish, Saturday morning, May 29.  On Tuesday morning, June 1, Boeing informed Ecology the company had responded to a jet fuel spill Friday night, May 28 at the company’s facility.  Boeing originally believed the spill was contained within the terminal.  Lab analysis of oil from the sheen indicate a link between the Boeing spill and the waterway sheen, which currents and wind dissipated later on Saturday. 

Preliminary information indicates that jet fuel at Boeing’s facility flowed to the waterway via a private storm drain on the night of May 28.  Boeing continues its efforts to clean out the drain line and affected shoreline areas on the company’s property.  Some of that cleanup work may be visible this week and next. 

Wednesday, 6/1/10 - 5:00 pm

Update on spill located south of slip 4 in Duwamish Waterway

Ecology is investigating an oil sheen on the Lower Duwamish Waterway.  The sheen was reported to Ecology and to the Coast Guard Saturday morning, May 29, in the Slip 4 area of the Duwamish Waterway.  There was no known source for the sheen, found just south of Slip 4.  The Coast Guard accessed a federal oil spill contingency fund to hire a cleanup contractor.  Oil recovery continued that morning while the tidal conditions permitted recovery efforts.

Ecology learned that Boeing staff at Plant 2 have been investigating a release to the company’s oil/water separation system during a jet fuel delivery on Friday night, May 28, or Saturday morning, May 29, at the Boeing Plant 2 fuel storage facility. 

As a precaution, the company placed oil containment boom outside of a private stormwater outfall that discharges from Boeing Plant 2 to the main channel of the Duwamish, south of Slip 4.  Ecology collected samples from Boeing to compare with others taken from the sheen on Saturday.  It will take a few days complete the lab work.  Boeing has cooperated with Ecology’s investigation. 

Sunday, 5/29/10 - 5:00 pm       

Washington Department of Ecology/U.S. Coast Guard: Seattle oil spill update

A cleanup contractor hired by the U.S. Coast Guard had to give up on efforts to recover diesel oil spilled in an inlet on the Duwamish Waterway because of a shifting tide.  A sheen and diesel odor were reported to Ecology at 8:30 am today in an inlet about one half mile north of the South Park Bridge.  Ecology spill responders found an unknown amount of diesel fuel in the inlet on private property at 7400 Eighth Ave. S.

The diesel oil was thought to be recoverable until the tide shifted. The 100-by-3-foot sheen left on the water, however, is expected to dissipate.  The Coast Guard estimates the size of the spill to be 20-25 gallons. 

The source of the spill hasn’t been determined but Ecology will continue to investigate.




Boeing’s fuel terminal















Contractors hired by Boeing deploy hard boom around the outfall to contain the oil sheen, as seen from the Boeing pier.

Boeing Field Aerial Maps
(Click to enlarge or click on photo gallery link below for full description of maps.)

For more photos and details on the maps, please see photo gallery.


Date of Incident:
May 28, 2010

Duwamish Waterway, Seattle

Jet fuel, estimated 300 gallons

Failure to close a maintenance valve and power off an automatic stormwater vault pump prior to a jet fuel transfer  

Responsible Party:
The Boeing Company


Washington Dept. of Ecology
Larry Altose

Washington Dept. of Ecology
Curt Hart


Ecology press release - June29, 2011 (pdf)

Ecology press release - March 10, 2011


Duwamish Waterway Photo Gallery


Notice of Penalty Incurred and Due, Docket #8562

Order for Reimbursement of Expenses, Docket #8566

Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) letter (pdf)