OLYMPIA — The Washington Department of Ecology is fining Sturgell Fisheries $11,500 for spilling nearly 675 gallons of oil into state marine waters on Jan. 25 after the company’s crabbing vessel, Genesis A, ran aground on the Long Beach Peninsula near Leadbetter Point at the entrance to Willapa Bay.
Investigators determined the grounding and oil spill were caused by human error. The spill occurred in the vicinity of the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge.
While most of the spill involved diesel fuel, the vessel also discharged lubricating and bilge oil, hydraulic fluid and other oil products.
Ecology also is seeking $7,300 to reimburse the state for expenses incurred responding to and cleaning up the spill. It took two days to recover the oil and five days to salvage the vessel and remove the environmental threat. Under Washington law, parties spilling oil must compensate the state for response and cleanup costs.
Jim Sachet, Spill Response Team supervisor, said: “This was a significant spill in a very sensitive beach environment near the mouth of Willapa Bay. It features extensive salt marshes, and is home to numerous threatened or endangered species of fish, marine mammals and birds. This incident was entirely preventable.”
The Coast Guard rescued four people and their dog from the vessel about 3:37 a.m. after it ran aground on Jan. 25. No medical attention was needed. Later that day, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife closed a mile-long section of beach on the northwest end of the Long Beach Peninsula to keep razor clam diggers away from the beached crab boat. It was the first day of a three-day evening clam dig at Long Beach. About 90 percent of the beach did remain open to digging.
All oil spills cause environmental damage, regardless of size or location. Oil is toxic to the environment and the damage starts as soon as the oil enters water. A single quart of oil has the potential to foul more than 100,000 gallons of water, according to a Department of Ecology press release.
Sturgell Fisheries may appeal the penalty to the 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.