Coleman Oil Fined for Spilling
by Jefferson Robbins
WENATCHEE -- A 3,800-gallon biodiesel spill that tainted the Columbia River near Wenatchee yielded a $189,000 state fine this week for Lewiston-based Coleman Oil.
The spill, discovered in March 2017, leaked 3,840 gallons of the fuel into groundwater and soil from an aboveground tank, and led to a visible sheen on the water and the eventual shutdown of the bulk oil plant where it originated. The riverside plant, at 3 Chehalis St. near the Apple Capital Recreation Loop Trail, is now a toxic cleanup site.
The spill was first identified from the oily sheen on the Columbia, and only traced back to Coleman Oil after testing revealed it was biodiesel. The state Department of Ecology cited Coleman Oil for negligence and not monitoring levels in the 20,000-gallon storage tank, which was connected to a corroded underground pipe. Although the company believed the pipe had been in place since 1935, Ecology found the firm did not follow its own procedures or industry guidance for working with buried piping.
"This spill happened over a long period of time and impacted the health of the river system," said Dale Jensen, who manages the Department of Ecology Spills Program. "It could easily have been prevented if the company had been properly monitoring the fuel level in that tank."
Groundwater monitoring wells are now in place and being sampled regularly to determine contamination levels in the groundwater. If fuel is found in the wells, it is pumped out so it doesn’t reach the river. The next phase of the investigation will determine if river sediments have been contaminated.
In addition to the fine, the company must reimburse the state $213,400 for its costs to respond to the spill. A further resource damage assessment may require Coleman Oil's participation in an environmental restoration or enhancement project, or a payment into a fund that pays for such projects. The combined costs to Coleman are expected to total more than $1 million. Coleman has the right to an appeal to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board.
learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs