American Golds Seafoods faces $112,500 fine for 2013 oil spill near Anacortes

Peninsula Daily News

ANACORTES — American Gold Seafoods faces a $112,500 penalty for an oil spill caused by the accidental sinking of its vessel the Clam Digger in July 2013 near Anacortes.

The state Department of Ecology investigated the cause of the sinking and spill and determined that negligence was a key factor.

American Gold Seafoods raises Atlantic salmon in fish pens in Port Angeles Harbor off Ediz Hook, as well as on Bainbridge, Cypress and Hope islands in Puget Sound. It also has two hatcheries near Rochester.

It is affiliated with Icicle Seafoods of Seattle, representatives of which declined comment on the penalty Friday.

When the Clam Digger left Anacortes on July 10, 2013, the boat encountered high waves, began taking on water and eventually sank.

Divers recovered the boat six days after the boat sank. During recovery efforts, 315 gallons of oil spilled.

“This spill was preventable,” said Dale Jensen, who manages Ecology's Spill Prevention, Preparedness and Response Program.

“The Clam Digger was not adequately maintained and not fit for its intended use that day.”

'Notified everyone'

When the boat sank, American Gold Seafoods immediately initiated appropriate response protocols, said Ecology spokeswoman Krista Kenner.

“They notified everyone they needed to notify immediately,” she said. “They fully cooperated.”

Penalties issued by Ecology may be appealed to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board.

Ecology investigators said they found open or leaky deck hatches on the vessel, which compromised its ability to stay watertight.

They also said such modifications as the installation of a 2,000-gallon double-walled portable diesel tank caused the boat to ride lower in the water and made it susceptible to flooding.

The Clam Digger sank in Bellingham Channel, where seagrass and kelp grow.

Pink and chinook salmon were present in the area, as well as marbled murrelets, a species classified as threatened by the state and federal government.

There was no evidence that any oil reached the shoreline.

Along with the $112,500 fine, Ecology billed American Gold Seafoods $9,796 to recoup the state's costs for cleanup and investigation work.

In addition, the company paid $13,844 to fund a shoreline restoration project in Anacortes in lieu of paying the same amount into a general fund for damage the spill caused to the public's environmental resources.

Last modified: July 26. 2014 7:01PM
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