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News / Business / Clark County Business

Vancouver barge company fined over liquid fertilizer spills

Three spills occurred in April in Vancouver, Pasco

By Dameon Pesanti, Columbian staff writer
Published: March 19, 2018, 6:45pm

The state Department of Ecology has fined Tidewater Barge Lines Inc. $18,000 for spilling 40,000 gallons of fertilizer in the Columbia and Snake rivers in April.

Investigators with Ecology found that two of Tidewater’s steel tank barges weren’t adequately maintained and allowed urea ammonium nitrate, a liquid fertilizer known to be corrosive to steel, to spill on three separate occasions.

The Vancouver-based company’s first spill occurred between April 11 and 21, when 16,600 gallons of fertilizer escaped into the waterway during transfer and storage operations at the Tidewater Snake River Terminal in Pasco due to a corroded tank in one of the company’s barges.

The second spill occurred between April 20 and 24 when a barge moved and moored on the Columbia River near Vancouver spilled 22,100 gallons of urea ammonium nitrate due to the barge’s corroded storage tank.

Tidewater spilled a third time during a transport operation on the Columbia, again near Vancouver, on April 28. About 950 gallons were released due to damage to the barge storage tank’s shell.

“These spills were preventable through proper maintenance of the barges,” Rich Doenges, Ecology’s water quality section manager, said in a news release. “While it dispersed rapidly in the Columbia and Snake rivers, urea ammonium nitrate fertilizer can stimulate plant and algae growth in water, which could impact fish and wildlife.”

The company is required to prevent future spills and submit to Ecology an annual comprehensive corrosion management plan for its barges.

Tidewater has 30 days to pay the fine or appeal to the state’s Pollution Control Hearings Board.

Columbian staff writer