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Oil spill lands Wash. recycler $405,000 fine

Keywords: Tags  scrap, scrapyard, Principle Metals, Bret Simpson, Washington recycler, oil spill, Lisa Gordon

PITTSBURGH — The owner of a recycling operation in central Washington state has been fined $405,000 for allegedly allowing thousands of gallons of oil to leak into the Columbia River while illegally scrapping a derelict barge, resulting in a massive cleanup effort.

Bret A. Simpson and Ellensburg, Wash.-based Principle Metals LLC were fined by the state Department of Ecology over the incident, which occurred along the Columbia River near Camas, Wash., between Dec. 3, 2010, and Jan. 28, 2011 (, Sept. 30, 2011).

Cleanup efforts—which spanned 295 days—cost taxpayers $22 million in federal funds and $680,000 in state funds.

Simpson pleaded guilty in July to charges of unlawfully discharging oil into the river and failing to report the discharge, both violations of the federal Clean Water Act (, July 16).

"Had Mr. Simpson or his company sought a permit to dismantle the Davy Crockett in water, we would have refused. He would have been directed to do the work in a permitted shipyard to protect our waters. Instead, he began scrapping the barge without the benefit of any professional advice. By the time he broke the barge in half, the damage was done," according to Dale Jensen, the Department of Ecology’s spills program manager.

Simpson couldn’t be reached for comment.

The state said the incident has prompted a crackdown on derelict vessels, and new legislation has been introduced to deal with the problem. An estimated 230 derelict vessels are in the state, of which more than 50 are located in the lower Columbia and Willamette rivers.

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