Environmental Protection

Columbia River Barge Incident Nearing Its End

The Oct. 12 sentencing of Bret A. Simpson, who pleaded guilty to two criminal violations of the Clean Water Act, will close the books on the $22 million cleanup.

A environmental incident that became known in January 2011 on the Columbia River near Camas, Wash., soon will come to a close with the scheduled Oct. 12 sentencing in federal court of Bret A. Simpson, owner of Principle Metals, LLC. He pleaded guilty July 12, 2012, to two criminal violations of the Clean Water Act, failing to report a discharge of oil, and unlawfully discharging oil into the river. The incident involved the 431-foot flat-deck barge Davy Crockett.

Washington state authorities responded to a reported oil sheen and traced it to the barge, a former Navy Liberty Ship that was partially submerged on aquatic lands owned by the state. It was leaking oil due to improper and unpermitted salvage operations, according to the Washington Department of Ecology.

The Coast Guard, the Washington Department of Ecology, and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality managed the response and salvage effort. The barge was cleaned and then dismantled.

According to the Department of Ecology's tally, the incident lasted 295 days, with 1.6 million gallons of oil/water mixture recovered and 3.56 million pounds of cleaned steel recycled. The project's cost was $22 million.

U.S. District Judge Robert J. Bryan scheduled the sentencing of Simpson, whose company planned to cut the ship apart and sell it for scrap, for 9:30 a.m.

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