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State Raps Corps for Polluting

by Staff
The Daily Astorian, March 3, 2006

Ilwaco, Wash. -- The Washington Department of Ecology has cited the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for spilling approximately 50 gallons of hydraulic oil into the Columbia River from the oceangoing dredge Essayons near Ilwaco Oct. 17.

Ecology sent the Corps a notice of violation requiring a written response to within 30 days about how the Corps will prevent future oil spills and how it will provide timely notifications of future spills. Timely notification speeds response time, minimizes harm to the environment and allows quick assistance from expert spill responders, Ecology officials said.

The Corps waited nearly 90 minutes before notifying Washington emergency management officials of the Oct. 17 spill, which occurred when a seal failed on the ship's dredge pump, Washington officials noted.

The Ecology department's records show the Essayons suffered four previous oil spills dating back to 2002. Two of the spills went into the Columbia River and two were on-deck spills that did not get into the river. The river spills happened when a dredge spilled 10 gallons into the river July 19, 2005 and 25 gallons Aug. 13, 2003. The on-deck spills included a 300-gallon spill Aug. 17, 2002, and an 86-gallon escape Sept. 6, 2005.

"We hope this notice will spark an improvement in the Corps' communication and coordination for any future spills from its dredges," said Dale Jensen, manager of Ecology's spills program. "This is also an opportunity for the Corps to review its spill-prevention methods."

Debby Chenoweth, operations chief for the Corps' Portland District, said action has been taken.

"As a result of this event, we have already initiated a $65,000 redesign of the oil seal, including secondary containment, on this piece of equipment," Chenoweth said. "Once we have installed and tested this change, it is intended to prevent future failures. We will continue to notify both state and federal agencies as promptly as possible, while focusing our primary efforts on vessel safety and oil containment."

Ecology officials issue fines to responsible parties for oil spills into public waters. However, under current federal laws, the department is limited in its ability to fine federal agencies, such as the Corps. As a result, it issued the notice of violation.

State Raps Corps for Polluting
The Daily Astorian, March 3, 2006

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