Lummi Rock quarry spill

(Information on this site is considered to be accurate at the time of posting, but is subject to change as new information becomes available.)

The Washington Department of Ecology is responding to an oil spill from a sunken barge at the south end of Lummi Island. The barge has released an unknown amount of oil, leaving sheen, a thin coating, on the water and nearby shore.

Summary information

Date of incident:  March 15, 2012

Lummi Rock quarry, Lummi Island, WA

Type of incident: Unknown amount of oil
Cause of incident: Under Investigation
Responsible party: Lummi Rock LLC
Lummi Rock quarry with a boom around the barge.

The Lummi Rock quarry placed a boom around the barge removal operation following an Ecology inspection. Photo courtesy of RE-Sources.

Status updates

September 24, 2012

Lummi Rock finished removing the last of two sections of a sunken barge from Smuggler’s Cove on Friday, September 21, 2012, at low tide, about 5:10 a.m. This was the bow section - about 40 feet wide by 60 feet long.

The company was able to remove the central section of the barge on Saturday, September 15, 2012. This section of barge was about 50 feet wide by 60 feet long. It presented the company with a number of unexpected challenges, delaying the removal effort by several weeks. 

No oil spills have been reported since Monday, September 3, 2012.

Ecology will continue its investigation of occasional spills throughout the removal operations and determine what enforcement action may be necessary.

September 11, 2012

Lummi Rock has made some progress removing one of the two remaining barge sections, but the project is taking longer than the company anticipated last week.

Workers have pulled about half of the 60-foot middle section onto the beach and started cutting pieces off. They will pull it further and cut off more until the entire section is out of the water. Then they will begin work to remove the last remaining 60-foot section the same way – cutting off pieces as they pull the hull onto the beach, according to a company project manager who is on site.

There have been no reports of spills since Monday, September 3, 2012.

September 5, 2012

Lummi Rock was able to move a 60-foot central section of a barge seven to eight feet closer to the shore this morning, exposing some of the hull, including a tank that may contain diesel fuel. The 25-gallon tank may have been the source of the oil that started leaking Monday.

The tank has been plugged, and its contents will be assessed and pumped off if any oil remains before the company continues working to remove the barge.

Lummi Rock and spills response contractor Western Refinery Services say oily sheen on the water had subsided since Tuesday afternoon.

The company estimates it will take two or three more days to finish removing the central section of barge. According to Lummi Rock, workers will need to pull it about 10 more feet before they can start cutting it into smaller sections on the beach.

The company estimates it will take another two days to remove the remaining 60-foot bow section, starting Friday or Saturday.

September 4, 2012

Ecology responded to the project site Monday, September 3, 2012, after receiving several complaints from Lummi Island residents about the smell of diesel fuel and oily sheen on private beaches, and a report later that day from the company that about five gallons of diesel had leaked.

Divers were working on rigging the barge for a removal attempt today. However, it is unclear what triggered the latest spill.

Responders’ on-scene observations were that likely more than five gallons had leaked. Rainbow sheen was on the water and was making contact with the shoreline, and a strong odor of diesel was in the air. An estimate of the spill will be calculated based on the amount of diesel fuel recovered from oil absorbent pads as part of an ongoing investigation of periodic oil spills throughout the removal operation.

Ecology required the company to call in a response contractor to help the company clean up what had spilled, and to help manage any continued spilling. The response contractor, Western Refinery Services (WRS), arrived about 8:30 p.m. Monday. A larger hard boom was placed around a smaller boom that was unable to contain the small but steady stream of diesel that was bubbling out of the hull. An observer was stationed next to the boom throughout the night to monitor its effectiveness and change out oil-soaked pads.

WRS agreed to return to the work site at first light today to reassess the situation and adjust the response plan as needed.

The quarry company planned its next attempt to remove the remaining barge sections this afternoon.

Ecology met with the residents to document their complaints. Their observations will be part of the overall investigation.

U.S. Coast Guard is on scene today and has been keeping Ecology informed. According to Coast Guard responders, cleanup appeared to be going well, and the company and its response contractor appear to be managing the situation.

Ecology arranged for a helicopter to fly over the scene this afternoon. From the air, Ecology’s responder could see that diesel fuel remains in the water, some escaping the boomed area, and there are still pockets on the shoreline, although it is less widespread than on Monday.

It also appeared from the air that the company had made some progress toward removing the barge. At last report, workers had paused removal efforts during low tide.

August 31, 2012

Workers were able to pull the barge 30 feet towards shore yesterday and 10 feet today. They will continue to work today and will work tomorrow but take Sunday and Monday off. There have been no new reports of oil releases

August 29, 2012

Divers continued efforts today and yesterday to assess the barge and set up cable rigging to begin pulling a section out of the water and onto the beach. 
Yesterday afternoon, crews reported seeing an oily material bubble to the surface over the submerged barge. This formed a light sheen of oil inside the oil spill containment boom set up around the area. While divers have found no signs that oil is stored on board, some oil or oily material appears to be trapped on the ceiling below the barge deck. Divers’ bubbles or movement on the barge may be enough to release small amounts of this material.  Divers have placed special oil-cleanup pads in ceiling recesses to capture oily material before it can float free.
Small patches of light sheen have been visible today in the boomed area. The sheen is too thin for cleanup and will be allowed to dissipate on its own. Lummi Rock has agreed to set up more oil clean-up materials in the beach area as a precaution in case more oily material floats free from under the deck.

August 24, 2012

Lummi Rock’s efforts to remove the remaining sections of a sunken barge were delayed when a cable broke through the hull.

The company planned to reset equipment and try again later today.
The plan now is to use a cable attached to a bulldozer on the deck of one barge to hoist the side of one of the sections. The company wants to try lifting the side of the barge to break suction with the bottom silt, and use heavy equipment on the shore to pull it onto the beach.
Lummi Rock says divers found no oil in the barge, and no oily sheen has been observed since operations resumed Thursday. The company says MSRC and Foss are on call to respond in the event of a spill that overwhelms on-scene spill response capabilities, according to Ecology’s contingencies in a Washington Fish and Wildlife Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA).
Ecology has been in contact with the company and has been making visits to the site during preparations and the removal attempt Thursday, but the agency is not staffing the operation with an around-the-clock responder. The company is required to report any spills, and Ecology will determine the need to respond.
The company has placed a boom around the work area and absorbent boom along some of the shoreline as a precaution, according to the HPA.

August 23, 2012

Lummi Rock plans to pull on one of the two remaining sections of a sunken barge this evening.
The company has been gearing up this week to resume removal efforts, moving equipment into place and rigging cables.
Divers assessed the submerged barge, according to Ecology’s oil spill contingencies in a Washington Fish and Wildlife Department (WDFW) Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA). The company says divers found no oil in any of the compartments.
Some boom is in place around the barge area, and a private response contractor is on call in the event of a spill that can respond if a spill occurs that overwhelms onsite recovery capabilities.
See the update from Friday, August 17, below for further details on the HPA.
Cables are rigged around the sunken barge from two barges on the surface. The company is using a bulldozer to help maintain tension and release the cables if necessary. Workers plan to use the incoming tide to help lift the barge sections off the bottom before moving them toward shore.
Ecology spill responders have been in contact with the company and have been observing some of the preparations. They have not seen any oily sheen on the water.

August 17, 2012

Lummi Rock has notified Ecology that the company is gearing up to resume efforts Monday, August 20, to remove a barge that is submerged off Lummi Island.

Work was suspended at the end of March to prevent potential oil spills that could harm migrating juvenile salmon.

The removal operations have resulted in small, periodic oil spills, leaving an occasional sheen on the water. From what divers have been able to access, the barge appears to be empty, except for some residual heavy oil under sediment resting in the bottom of the hull. That may be the source of the sheen. The oil possibly was released whenever the sediment was disturbed.

Before resuming work in the water, Lummi Rock had to get an amended Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

WDFW included preventive measures from Ecology in the HPA:

  • Before barge removal efforts start up again, divers have to assess the barge sections for areas that may contain or store oil, unless it is deemed unsafe. Once barge sections are above the waterline, the contractor must assess compartments and tanks. If any oil is found, it must be removed before the contractor continues removing that specific section of barge.
  • Lummi Rock must have a private response contractor on standby that can respond immediately to the site with appropriate equipment and resources if a spill occurs that overwhelms onsite oil recovery capabilities. If there is a spill of any size, work to remove the barges must stop until it has been cleaned up.
  • The company must have in place appropriate oil containment boom capable of containing any oil spilled prior to and during all barge removal operations. Shorelines within the boomed area also must be protected with absorbent sweep or boom.
  • The company must immediately notify Ecology and the National Response Center if any spills produce an oily sheen on the water surface.
  • The company must notify Ecology at least 24 hours prior to any barge removal activities.  

Lummi Rock is voluntarily removing the barges, so Ecology is not coordinating or directing the work. However, Ecology will stay in close contact with the company and will visit the site during the removal operation to provide technical assistance and make sure environmental protections are in place and properly implemented.

March 29, 2012

A sunken barge off Lummi Island will have to stay put until at least June 15 to prevent potential oil spills that could harm migrating juvenile salmon.

The removal effort has resulted in small, periodic oil spills, leaving an occasional thin coating of oil, or sheen, on the water. While the barge’s hold appears to be empty, the source is likely some residual heavy oil under sediment resting in the bottom of the hull that is released whenever the sediment is disturbed.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) determined that any additional spills now would be harmful to juvenile salmon.

The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) is investigating potential water quality violations.

Workers cut the barge into sections and attempted to pull them out of the water, but a sediment berm piled up as the barge sections were dragged along the bottom. Workers were unable to pull the barge over the berm with the equipment they were using.

Lummi Rock LLC (Lummi Rock), which owns the barge and the neighboring gravel quarry, has been working to remove two sunken barges since March 1 under the authority of a WDFW hydraulic project approval permit. One barge was successfully removed March 19.

WDFW granted several extensions to finish removing the second barge, but potential for damage to migrating salmon is now too great for Lummi Rock to continue working in the “fish window” – March 15 through June 14. The most recent version of the permit gives them until March 30 to finish work.

Because the barge sections will remain in the water and may have been weakened during the removal attempts, the Washington Department of Ecology is requiring Lummi Rock to assess the contents of the barge, to use preventive measures such as maintaining oil spill containment boom and cleanup materials around the barge, and to provide a spill response plan.

A concerned neighbor made the initial report on March 8 of an oil spill in the area. On March 15, Ecology inspectors observed an oily sheen on the water that was coming from the submerged barge. Contractors working for Lummi Rock reported some oil was released during their efforts to remove the barges.

Ecology is requiring the company to compile and submit a report of when spills occurred and take measures to contain and prevent any future spills.

Lummi Rock operates its quarry under the Ecology sand and gravel general permit

Ecology’s investigation is ongoing.

March 20, 2012

No oily sheen has been reported since last week as salvage workers continue efforts to remove two submerged barges from the south end of Lummi Island.

Washington Department of Ecology inspectors visited the site Thursday, March 15, to investigate the source of reports of intermittent oily sheen on the water. They discovered an oily sheen that appeared to be coming from the area of a fully submerged barge.

Ecology instructed the barge owner, Lummi Rock LLC, to place containment and absorbent boom around the barges, have pumps and absorbent materials staged in case of a release, and have a cleanup contractor on standby. The co
mpany has complied.

By 3 a.m. on Monday, March 19, contractors hired by Lummi Rock successfully removed one barge that was partially submerged. It contained rock and gravel.

They successfully removed a 30-foot section of the second fully submerged barge about two weeks ago, leaving two 45-foot sections to remove today and Wednesday.

A portion of the second barge that divers were able to access was empty except for some residual heavy oil under sediment resting in the bottom of the hull. Hard foam used to patch holes at some point in the ship’s history was saturated with oil.

Because it was unsafe for divers to access the remaining two 45-foot sections, they can’t confirm their contents. The crew will haul them out of the water before cutting them into smaller sections.

The barges are converted ships that Lummi Rock used in its quarry operations. It is unclear what the ships were used for before they were converted to barges, and they aren’t labeled with identifying marks or numbers from their former incarnation.

March 16, 2012

Workers continued to dismantle the first of two sunken barges – the second of which has been releasing oil – at the south end of Lummi Island today. Completion of the first barge will enable crews to begin removing the second vessel right away.

The Washington Department of Ecology and the U.S. Coast Guard are overseeing the spill response. The agencies have received reports of sheen – a thin coating on the water – in the area over the past two weeks. Ecology observed the spill from the second barge yesterday afternoon.

Contractors hired by Lummi Rock LLC (Lummi Rock) at the company’s quarry are dismantling the old barges. The workers have surrounded the area with oil spill containment boom and cleanup materials. The rocky beach, which had oil sheen, is undergoing treatment with oil-spill cleanup materials.

Divers surveyed the second barge yesterday and discovered that sediments in the hull contained oily material. Hard foam materials in the hull also are saturated with oil. Both barges are converted ship hulls, and the materials in the second vessel appear to have been left in place when conversion occurred. No information on the vessels’ age or dates of conversion were immediately available.

Removal of both barges will eliminate the source of oil release. The first barge blocks access to the second. Contractors will keep the spill control boom in place and will be prepared to respond if the barge removal work causes further releases of oil.

The water and beach in the area appeared free of oil sheen today. The oil affected approximately 200 feet of shoreline. The amounts of oil released and remaining in the barge remain unknown.  

March 15, 2012

The Washington Department of Ecology is responding to an oil spill from a sunken barge at the south end of Lummi Island.

Ecology discovered the spill early this afternoon at the Lummi Rock LLC (Lummi Rock) quarry. The barge has released an unknown amount of oil, leaving sheen, a thin coating, on the water and nearby shore. Ecology has directed Lummi Rock to place additional oil spill cleanup and containment materials around the fully submerged barge and on the beach. State and federal authorities are working to determine the type of oil, how much is on the barge, and how to safely remove or contain it.

The oil affects approximately 200 feet of shoreline. The sheen covers about 600 square feet of water.

Lummi Rock was dismantling another barge under an in-water construction permit, issued by the Washington Department of Wildlife. Ecology had been unable to confirm an earlier report, made March 8, 2012, of sheen from the dismantling operation.

All oil spills cause environmental damage, regardless of size. Oil is toxic to the environment and the damage starts as soon as the oil hits water. A single quart of oil has the potential to foul more than 100,000 gallons of water.

Media contact

Dustin Terpening, Media contact,, 360-715-5205