Lack of maintenance led to a 2022 fuel spill in the South Fork Palouse and has now resulted in a $34,000 fine for Four Star Supply Inc. The spill came from a slow leak from a fuel tank, spilling an estimated 63 gallons of diesel into the river. Four Star Supply Inc. is a farm and fuel supply company with operations in Pullman and other cities.
On April 25, 2022, a Four Star Supply employee noticed diesel leaking from one of the company’s aboveground storage tanks. The spilled diesel breached its secondary containment structure, saturated the soil, and continued into the South Fork Palouse River.
Employees removed the fuel remaining in the tank and hired a cleanup contractor, who took steps to contain and collect the spilled fuel, including placing boom in the river. Contractors and company personnel continued to collect fuel as it seeped out of the ground over several months.
The Washington Department of Ecology fined Four Star for spilling oil to water, not reporting the spill immediately, and negligence. Ecology investigators determined the spill was caused by corrosion in the tank. Records show the tanks and containment structure were not inspected or properly maintained. Half of the tanks, including the tank that spilled, are believed to be over 85 years old, and the containment also needed repairs.
“Four Star could have avoided this spill had it inspected and maintained the tanks and secondary containment structure,” said Sam Hunn, Ecology’s Eastern Region spill response supervisor. “Following the incident, Four Star was very cooperative, and had materials and trained resources to respond quickly. We appreciate their diligence in cleaning up the area.”
Following the spill, Four Star drained and removed the leaking tank and the five other tanks from the site. Four Star also removed the pipelines that crossed the river. The company cleaned the area, replaced soil, and restored the riverbank.
In addition to the penalty, the company is also subject to a separate Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) of $1,038. The NRDA process is used to evaluate the impacts of oil spills and may require the company to pay for associated damages.
The South Fork Palouse River is home to several species of mammals, fish, birds and other animals, and drains into the Palouse River. While there were no reported impacts to wildlife, oil and refined oil products are toxic. Even small amounts of oil can severely injure or impair animals. Oil can also adversely affect the habitats that wildlife depends on for survival.
The penalty may be appealed to the Washington Pollution Control Hearings Board within 30 days. Spill penalty proceeds support grants issued by Ecology to public agencies and non-profit organizations for environmental restoration projects.