Oregon

Costly Davy Crockett Oil Spill Could Have Been Prevented

OPB | Feb. 20, 2012 10:37 p.m. | Updated: July 17, 2012 1:02 a.m.

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The U.S. Coast Guard and its contractors spent 10 months and $22 million last year removing the Davy Crockett from the Columbia River. The barge had broken apart during a botched salvage job and was spilling oil and PCBs into the river.

Workers prevented a major environmental disaster, but an EarthFix investigation has found that state and federal officials could have prevented the oil spill and the need for a multi-million-dollar cleanup had they enforced their orders to the vessel’s previous owners.

  • In 2005, Washington state officials ordered one owner to relocate the illegally moored barge.

  • In 2009, the U.S. Coast Guard ordered another owner to remove all the oil and fuel from the ship. 

Neither owner complied, and neither agency made sure the orders were followed. Consequently, an illegally moored, 431-foot vessel that held 38,397 gallons of bunker oil and unknown quantities of diesel fuel and wastes was sold to its last owner, Bret Simpson. He is accused of trying to scrap the Davy Crockett in the water. He was indicted in September on criminal charges for allowing the oil to spill into the river and failing to report the spill. His trial is scheduled for August.

Find the complete story and a timeline, maps and photos at EarthFix.

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