Oil tanker truck fire results in $7,000 penalty

The Washington Department of Ecology this week penalized Hoquiam-based Pettit Oil $7,000 for a June 2007 trailer truck crash that caused approximately two thousand gallons of diesel fuel and gasoline to spill and ignite along Highway 8 near the Thurston and Grays Harbor county border. As a result, part of the highway median caught fire, and burning fuel passed through a culvert, igniting the peat bog and wetland to the east. Some of that fuel also escaped the wetland into Mox-Chehalis Creek...

OLYMPIA, WA, July 31, 2008 -- The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) this week penalized Hoquiam-based Pettit Oil $7,000 for a June 2007 trailer truck crash that caused approximately two thousand gallons of diesel fuel and gasoline to spill and ignite along Highway 8 near the Thurston and Grays Harbor county border.

As a result, part of the highway median caught fire, and burning fuel passed through a culvert, igniting the peat bog and wetland to the east. Some of that fuel also escaped the wetland into Mox-Chehalis Creek.

"Even with the amount that was consumed by the fire, this spill released a substantial amount of fuel to the ground, a sensitive wetland and local creek," said Jim Sachet, regional spill response manager for Ecology.

The Pettit Oil truck-and-trailer combination was headed westbound on Highway 8 with approximately 10,300 gallons of diesel and gasoline onboard when the driver crashed in the median. Most of the fuel burned in the resulting fire, but Ecology estimates at least 1,500 gallons of diesel and gasoline spilled to Mox-Chehalis Creek and adjacent wetland.

Once the fire was out, contractors for Pettit Oil excavated contaminated soils, rebuilt the median and cleaned up as much of the peat bog as possible without causing further environmental damage. The cleanup took several days to complete.

Due to concerns from state Fish and Wildlife biologists, a small amount of the petroleum- impacted peat had to be left in place. Peat bogs take a long time to form and are considered a very sensitive habitat with high importance for ecosystem health.

Sachet credited Pettit Oil with a quick and cooperative response. The company hired an environmental consultant and a cleanup contractor almost immediately so cleanup and restoration work could begin once the fire was out. The company also brought a mobile analytical lab to the site to expedite the cleanup.

"Thankfully, results from several months of monitoring indicated no long-term impact to Mox-Chehalis Creek," said Ecology's Sachet.

Ecology is also seeking $10,168 from Pettit Oil for expenses the agency incurred while responding to the incident. Pettit Oil previously reached a settlement with Ecology and other state agencies on natural resource damages allegedly resulting from the spill, which resulted in Pettit Oil's payment of $34,000 to fund a habitat restoration project along Mox-Chehalis Creek.

Pettit Oil has 30 days to respond to the penalty and the request for reimbursement of expenses. The company can either pay the penalty and/or the expenses, or request reconsideration by Ecology, or appeal penalty directly to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board.

Also see:
-- "Public invited to comment on two proposed water management rules for Lewis & Salmon-Washougal rivers"
-- "Sampling results will help guide Port Gardner Bay cleanup"
-- "Ecology extends public comment period for Oakland Bay study"

###

More in Environmental