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NW Fishletter #389, January 7, 2019

[12] Coleman Oil Disputes Ecology's Claims, Plans Appeal

A manager for Coleman Oil says his company disputes some of the Washington Department of Ecology's findings surrounding a Columbia River oil spill near Wenatchee, and plans to appeal its $189,000 fine to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board.

Jim Cach, operations manager for the Lewiston-based company, said they were unaware that an employee at its Wenatchee facility was not following proper procedures to ensure oil spills are discovered quickly. He said the company fully cooperated once the spill was traced back to one of its underground pipes. The product that spilled into the Columbia River is actually not biodiesel as reported in an Ecology news release, but a renewable oil called R99 made from natural fats and vegetables and not fossil fuel, Cach added.

Ecology said in a Nov. 28 news release that Coleman Oil was negligent for failing to monitor levels of fuel in its 20,000-gallon bulk oil tank, and that its actions resulted in a 3,840-gallon spill which leaked into the Columbia River over a period of years.

Cach said their own investigation found that the leak occurred only over a period of three months, from January to March 2017, through a "pin-prick sized hole" in the pipe. The employee, who no longer works for the company, was not taking daily physical measurements of the oil levels in one of its tanks as required, he said, but instead inferred how much oil should have been in the tank based on how much had been taken out.

He said as soon as the spill was traced to its tanks, they paid Ecology $213,400 for its response costs, and immediately took over the cleanup process.

So far, Cach said, they've spent $2.6 million on response, monitoring and cleanup. The measures include maintaining booms on the Columbia River, removing all fuel from the bulk plant, decommissioning and removing 10 oil tanks, and demolishing and removing three buildings.

The company also excavated 750 tons of soil, installed 38 monitoring and recovery wells, and are working with the EPA on a resource damage assessment, he said.

"Coleman Oil has worked diligently and cooperatively with federal and state agencies," Cach said, adding, "How is this going to encourage others" to cooperate? -K.C. Mehaffey

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NW Fishletter is produced by NewsData LLC.
Publisher/Editor-in-Chief: Mark Ohrenschall, Editor: K.C. Mehaffey
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