An Ellensburg man was sentenced Monday to four months in prison for the botched salvage of a barge that spilled oil into the Columbia River near Camas.
Bret A. Simpson, 53, owner of Principle Metals, pleaded guilty in July 2012 to illegally discharging oil in late 2010 and early 2011 from the Davy Crockett barge and failing to report it to authorities. The crimes spawned a 10-month, $22 million oil cleanup and salvage operation,paid for by taxpayers.
He was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
“It has to be known that when you undertake a responsibility that has the potential to ruin an ecosystem, you’re going to bear the consequences,” said U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle, according to a news release.
In addition to prison time, Simpson will be required to serve eight months of home detention, 100 hours of community service and three years’ probation.
Simpson admitted he knew there were thousands of gallons of oil aboard the 430-foot vessel before beginning an on-water scrapping operation. He did nothing to have the oil safely removed. When workers cut into a structural beam in December 2010, the barge split apart, causing oil to continuously leak into the river. But Simpson never notified authorities. Subsequent spills in January 2011 led the U.S. Coast Guard to identify the barge as the source of the oil.