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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Vessel Owners Fined for Port Orchard Oil Spill

By Mark Edward Nero

The owners of a 69-foot wooden vessel that sank at its dock and spilled oil into Sinclair Inlet have been fined $47,500 by the Washington Dept. of Ecology.

On Oct. 3, Ecology confirmed that it issued the fine to Dean Raught and Kyhra Hessel of Des Moines, Iowa for failing to keep the 58-year-old former fishing boat Tango in suitable repair to remain afloat. It sank at the Port Orchard Railway Marina on Sept. 2, 2015.

An estimated 751 gallons of oil, primarily diesel fuel with lubricating oil, spilled when the Tango sank. Local crews and volunteers used a nearby Ecology Dept. spill equipment trailer to place containment boom and other spill response materials around the vessel.

Investigators determined that a power cable came loose from an electrical service box on the dock. As a result, six pumps stopped operating that had been keeping the vessel from sinking. Also, a lock to secure plug-ins at the box had not been properly engaged.

Most of the spilled fuel was contained within the marina, but a surface coating too thin to clean up extended about a mile into Sinclair Inlet.

In the marina, response crews recovered about 618 gallons of the spill, and 30 gallons that was still inside the boat. “This was a bad ending to a series of problems with the Tango,” said the state ecology department’s spills program manager Dale Jensen. “This boat nearly sank before, and the owners relied on pumps to keep it afloat.”

The vessel previously took on water and nearly sank in March 2014. Responders deployed powerful pumps to avert the sinking. Ecology says that in June 2015, it offered to arrange removal of the Tango’s fuel at no cost, after explaining to the vessel’s owners they could face liability under state law for polluting. The owners, according to Ecology, declined the offer.

In the latest incident, the US Coast Guard used a federal spill response fund to hire a salvage company to remove the remaining oil. The marina had the vessel patched and re-floated, then towed to a boat yard for demolition. Along with the fine, Ecology also billed the vessel’s owners $1,200 for the state’s costs to respond to the spill and oversee the cleanup. Earlier, the state issued a separate $20,070 assessment for damage the spill caused to the public’s environmental resources, based on the amount spilled.