For what is likely the first time in state history, Washington has filed criminal charges against two separate owners of derelict vessels that sank in Pierce and Kitsap counties, spilling oil that, the state says, contaminated the waters.
The state Office of the Attorney General has charged Stephen C. Mason with one count of abandoning a vessel or causing it to become derelict and one count of discharging polluting substances into state waters. The complaint says the M/V Helena Star sank in the Hylebos Waterway, releasing hundreds of gallons of fuel and oil.
According to the complaint, Mason’s company, Mason Marine Services, had an agreement with another company to salvage the M/V Helena Star and the M/V Crest in February 2011. After receiving complaints about the condition of the Helena Star, the Coast Guard and the state Department of Ecology boarded the 167-foot vessel on Feb. 29, 2012.
On March 2, 2012, the U.S. Coast Guard notified Mason that the vessel was a danger to the public and the environment because it was either already leaking oil and hazardous material or about to, according to the complaint.
In January 2013, the Helena Star sank in the waterway, releasing hundreds of gallons of fuel and oil and taking another vessel, the Golden West, with it, the complaint said. The two vessels were tied together.
In a separate incident, Anthony R. Smith has been charged with one count of first-degree theft for not paying moorage fees, another count for causing a vessel to become abandoned and another for discharging polluting material into state water after his abandoned vessel, the historic tugboat, Chickamauga, sank and released petroleum products into water near Bainbridge.
According to the complaint, Smith paid first and last month’s moorage fees to Eagle Harbor Marina after piloting the Chickamauga there last February. The complaint said he refused to make other payments on his moorage fees and failed to respond to requests by the harbormaster to address the failing condition of his boat.
When it sank in October, it had 400 gallons of diesel fuel and 10 gallons of lube oil on board, according to the complaint said.