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Puget Sound Energy agrees to pay $471,900 EPA penalty for 2006 oil spill near Crystal Mountain ski resort

Release Date: 04/21/2008
Contact Information: Lauris Davies/EPA Seattle 206-553-2857 davies.lauris@epa.gov; Mark MacIntyre/EPA Seattle 206-553-7302, macintyre.mark@epa.gov

(Seattle, Washington - April 21, 2008) The U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has signed a “Stipulated Order of Settlement” with Puget Sound Energy (PSE). Central to the settlement is PSE’s agreement to pay a $471,900 EPA penalty, which will resolve the Agency’s federal Clean Water Act claims against the Bellevue-based energy company.

According to court papers, the government alleged that the violation occurred on November 3, 2006, when an above-ground tank at the Crystal Mountain ski area’s emergency generator overflowed and discharged approximately 18,000 gallons of diesel fuel.

Ecology and EPA concluded that the spill occurred after an electrical malfunction. As a result, a large portion of the 18,000 gallon spill eventually entered nearby Silver Creek (a tributary of the White River) and contaminated the adjoining shoreline.

Silver Creek is spawning and rearing habitat for Chinook, pink, chum and Coho salmon, as well as rainbow, steelhead and cutthroat trout. Both Silver Creek Basin and the White River Watershed are designated drinking water sources. As a precautionary measure, PSE provided bottled drinking water to downstream residents until the drinking water could be confirmed as safe for consumption.

PSE incurred over $15 million in spill response cleanup costs and paid for Crystal Mountain Generating Station repairs to minimize the possibility of a similar spill in the future.

According to Mike Bussell, director of EPA’s office of Enforcement & Compliance, PSE made appropriate improvements and worked cooperatively to ensure that an incident like this does not happen again.

"We are pleased with PSE's cooperation and the steps they have taken to resolve these Clean Water Act violations,” said Bussell.

Under the supervision of Ecology, EPA and the US Forest Service, PSE responders and contractors spent more than a month cleaning up the Site. Of the estimated 18,000 gallons of diesel fuel that spilled, responders estimate that more than half was eventually recovered.

The incident was the largest oil spill affecting surface water in Washington since June 10, 1999, when a 277,000-gallon gasoline spill and explosion from the Olympic pipeline rocked Whatcom County.

The settlement will be subject to a public comment period before it becomes final.

For more information about reporting an oil spill, visit: http://yosemite.epa.gov/R10/CLEANUP.NSF/webpage/Spill+Reporting

To learn more about EPA's Oil Spill programs, visit: http://www.epa.gov/oilspill

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