The owner of a 71-foot wooden tugboat
that sank at a Seattle marina spilling 110 gallons of oil over 50 days has been fined $127,500 by the Washington Department of Ecology.
The 90-year-old tugboat Chief sank at Ballard Oil marina on Nov. 30, 2017, due to heavy rainfall that flowed through the vessel’s leaky cabin and filled up the bilge. The tug remained underwater leaking oil through Jan. 18, 2018, when it was finally raised.
The spill was deemed negligent because the tug’s owner, Timothy Whitney of Chester, Md., did not follow recommendations to prevent the sinking. Whitney, who used the 1929-era tug for recreation and not for commercial purposes, had hired a local marine engineer to survey it for risk of sinking and spilling oil. Although the engineer cited rainfall as the biggest threat to the ship, the owner took no action to have leaks repaired or to prevent water from accumulating in the bilge.
“All oil spills are toxic and put unneeded pressure on everything that lives in Puget Sound,” said Polly Zehm, deputy director of the Department of Ecology. “This was a spill that could have been prevented.”
Chinook salmon that pass through Salmon Bay and the Lake Washington ship canal are a key food source for declining populations of southern resident killer whales in Puget Sound. The bay is also home to California sea lions and a small population of Stellar sea lions, which are listed as threatened.
Penalty money from oil spills goes into the Coastal Protection Fund
, which pays for environmental restoration projects in the impacted area in Washington.
Whitney has 30 days to appeal the penalty to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board.