Department of Ecology News Release - September 13, 2018
Tidewater Barge Lines settles penalty over liquid fertilizer spill to Columbia and Snake rivers
VANCOUVER – Tidewater Barge Lines has agreed to pay a reduced fine and undertake a conservation project to settle violations for spilling nearly 40,000 gallons of urea ammonium nitrate (UAN) liquid fertilizer into the Snake and Columbia rivers in April 2017.
UAN is a common fertilizer applied to food crops that can be corrosive to steel. An investigation by the Washington Department of Ecology found that two steel tank barges were corroded or damaged allowing liquid fertilizer to spill into the rivers across four separate incidents in April 2017. As a result, Ecology fined Tidewater Barge $18,000 in March.
Under the settlement, Tidewater will pay $2,400, as well as pay for a $9,600 conservation project on the Columbia River. The company also provided Ecology a report describing the fertilizer barge maintenance and inspection programs it will be taking to avoid future UAN releases.
Just as fertilizer supports plant growth on land, it does the same in water. “Increasing plant and algae growth lowers the amount of dissolved oxygen in water, which can harm fish, such as the salmon species we are trying hard to recover,” said Rich Doenges, a manager in the Department of Ecology Water Quality Program. “We appreciate Tidewater’s resolution to this issue and their desire to make sure a violation of this nature doesn’t happen again.”
Conservation project funds will be used to preserve salmon habitat, natural shoreline, open space, and streams at Columbia Grove and the adjoining Wood’s Landing conservation area near Vancouver. Specifically, the funds will be used for planting native trees and shrubs, mulch, and invasive species removal. The project is scheduled to begin this fall and continue into winter 2019.
Regarding the April 2017 releases, Robert Curcio, Tidewater’s President and Chief Executive Officer, commented “Tidewater most certainly regrets the accidental releases of UAN liquid fertilizer. The extended lock closure and colder temperatures experienced during the winter of 2017 were abnormal and required Tidewater to store UAN on barges for longer periods of time which in turn increased the potential for corrosion. In response to the releases, we have since taken additional inspection and maintenance measures to supplement our existing programs and prevent recurrence of UAN releases moving forward.”