Department of Ecology News Release - September 13, 2017

Landowner fined for oil spill to Sulphur Creek and Yakima River

Rainbow sheen from used motor oil that spilled into Sulphur Creek near Sunnyside in March 2015.

A property owner in the community of Outlook has received a $28,000 penalty for an oil spill from an above-ground storage tank in March of 2015.

Approximately 2,700 gallons of oil was lost from the tank, 1,900 gallons of which damaged seven miles of Sulphur Creek and 12 miles of the Yakima River, from Mabton to Prosser, over four days.

The oil travelled from the property through underground piping that spilled into the creek, and from there reached the Yakima River. Dozens of ducks and geese were harmed by the spill and several died despite bird-rehabilitation efforts. The spill also impacted important wetlands, Yakama Nation reservation lands, and threatened a fish hatchery.

A unified command comprised of the Department of Ecology, the local irrigation district, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Yakama Nation, responded to the immediate spill to clean up the oil reaching water. Soil and groundwater at the property remains contaminated and needs a long-term clean-up plan.

“Old above-ground storage tanks that contain oil pose a threat to the environment and are common in rural areas,” said Sam Hunn, with Ecology’s Spills Program. “When one fails, it can be an expensive and avoidable mistake.”

“We regret this incident occurred and we’re working closely with Ecology on next steps to get our land cleaned up,” said Ward Deaton of Deaton Land LLC, owner of the property.

Besides the penalty, and under state law, the owner also faces a Resource Damage Assessment for harm caused to public resources. In Washington, an oil spiller is responsible for adequately compensating the public for injuries to their resources. Compensation could include a restoration and enhancement project or study, or the spiller may be assessed damages, which are paid into a restoration fund managed by the state.

The penalty took more time than usual to finalize because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted its own investigation of the incident and later deferred the action to the state.

The property owner has 30 days to pay the penalty or file an appeal with the state’s Pollution Control Hearings Board.

Visit our spills incidents website for additional information and see photos of this incident .

Contact information

Sandy Howard
Communications manager