The Washington Department of Ecology has fined Achilles USA, Inc., an Everett company, $327,200 for two oil spills that flowed into retention ponds and covered wildlife. The company is being held liable for the spills, not reporting them, and negligence.
On July 10, 2018, an employee was improperly moving totes containing lubricating oil. One tote fell and ruptured, spilling the contents into the building’s stormwater system. Employees did not make proper notifications, or fully clean out the system, as their policies require. The oil impacted wildlife when the system was flushed to an outside retention pond more than two weeks later.
An Achilles employee found oil in the pond the next day, and brought an oiled goose to the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) wildlife treatment facility in Lynwood. However, the employee intentionally misled PAWs and Ecology staff about where the bird was found. Ecology searched for the cause of the spill, tracing the source to Achilles’ property. The additional time it took to find the source delayed response efforts and likely harmed additional wildlife.
During cleanup, responders found a second source of lubricating oil draining into the pond. The oil came from a collection pit inside the facility that had overfilled due to lack of maintenance.
A total of 340 gallons of lubricating oil spilled to the retention pond from the two spills. Six oiled geese and one snake were captured and cleaned. The spills took three weeks to clean up. Additional oiled wildlife were observed, including Blue Herons, but could not be captured for cleaning.
“These spills show the unfortunate results of lack of training combined with disregard for safety and the environment,” said Dave Byers, Ecology’s spill response section manager. “Let us hope the infrastructure and procedure changes Achilles has made since these incidents will prevent future spills.”
In addition to the penalty, Ecology billed Achilles $7,653 to recover the state’s costs in responding to the spills. The company is also subject to a separate Natural Resources Damage Assessment of $3,855 based on a scientific evaluation of the spills’ environmental harm.
In response to the penalty, Achilles USA, Inc., stated, “Achilles takes its environmental compliance seriously and apologizes for the incident. The July 10, 2018, spill resulted from a former maintenance manager not following company policy regarding spills. Achilles has implemented corrective actions designed to prevent a reoccurrence of any future spills. We would like to recognize the first responders for their actions in fully recovering the oil spilled to the retention pond, and preventing the release of any oil from the retention pond to Narbeck Creek.”
Achilles has 30 days to appeal the penalty to the Pollution Control Hearings Board. Spill penalty and damage assessment proceeds support grants issued by Ecology to public agencies and non-profit organizations for environmental restoration projects.