Fine follows fuel spill in Tacoma's Blair Waterway

Washington State Department of Ecology officials announced Monday it has fined Seattle-based Manson Construction Co. $10,000 for spilling some 177 gallons of diesel fuel from a 195-foot barge into the Port of Tacoma’s Blair Waterway.

The penalty was levied because it is illegal to spill oil or fuel into the waters of the state and because Ecology determined the spill was a negligent oil spill. The Blair Waterway is a heavily industrialized waterway, parts of which are included in the Commencement Bay Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site.

“People are working hard to clean up contamination from past activities at this Superfund site,” said Southwest Regional Office Spill Response Unit Supervisor Jim Sachet. “It’s important not to contaminate the waterway again.”

Ecology also is billing the company $2,800 to recover the state’s costs for conducting the spill cleanup. State law requires entities that spill fuel to reimburse the state for spill response.

The spill occurred on the morning of Oct. 29, 2010, when the company was transferring fuel from the tug Nancy M to the fuel tank of the barge Andrew. The company failed to monitor the transfer and the tank level of the Andrew, and consequently diesel fuel overflowed from the Andrew’s fuel tank vent, according to Ecology officials. The vessels were moored just offshore of the Washington United Terminal at the time of the spill. The barge was being used for a clamshell dredging operation. Dredging resumed during the fuel transfer, leading to a lack of oversight for the fuel transfer. Manson Construction Company, Ecology and the U.S. Coast Guard responded to the incident.

Sachet added, “Quick action by the barge and tug crew resulted in 168 gallons recovered from the water out of 177 spilled to water. However, anytime that any amount of fuel is spilled into a waterway it causes damage.”

“Manson Construction takes environmental quality very seriously and deeply regrets this incident taking place,” said Eric Haug, President of Manson Construction Company. “Manson has taken actions to prevent such accidents in the future.”

Manson Construction Company may appeal the penalty to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board within 30 days.

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.