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January 28, 2013 at 5:19 PM

Columbia River oil spill leads to $405,000 state fine

The owner of an old Liberty ship that sank and spilled oil in the Columbia River during an illegal salvage operation will be fined $405,000 by the state Department of Ecology.

The spill prompted a 10-month cleanup and removal project, which cost taxpayers $22 million in federal funds. The state spent an additional $680,000 on the cleanup.

Bret A. Simpson and his company, Principle Metals LLC, was scrapping the 431-foot Davy Crockett on the Columbia between Camas and Vancouver, where it had been moored for years. In January 2011 authorities discovered it had cracked in half and partially sunk.

Last July Simpson pleaded guilty to two violations of the Clean Water Act.

Sentencing in federal court is set for March.

Simpson is responsible for reimbursing the state for its expenditures on the cleanup in addition to the fine.

“It’s possible we won’t receive the money, but he still needs to be held legally accountable for his actions,” said Linda Kent, a spokeswoman for Ecology.

The fine is among the larger penalties issued by Ecology in recent years.

The largest, a $7.5 million penalty, came after the 1999 Olympic pipeline explosion, which killed three people and sent a trail of fire through a Bellingham park.

Comments | Topics: Columbia River, Davy Crockett, derelict vessels

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