Crab boat owner fined $300K over Penn Cove oil spill

The state Department of Ecology levied a $301,000 fine against the man whose crab boat caught fire and sank in Penn Cove in 2012, causing an oil spill that temporarily shut down nearby Penn Cove Shellfish.

It’s just the latest bad news for Rory Westmoreland, a 51-year-old scrap-metal dealer with a history of running afoul of environmental rules, according to the Department of Ecology.

Westmoreland is facing a misdemeanor charge in Island County District Court for allegedly abandoning the 128-foot Deep Sea crab boat.

Friday, he pleaded not guilty in King County Superior Court to charges by the Attorney General’s Office that he abandoned about 40 barrels of hazardous waste in a property from which he was evicted in 2012, the Attorney General’s Office reported.

The state charged Westmoreland with one count of violating the hazardous waste management act, a felony, and another gross-misdemeanor count of unlawful dumping of solid waste without a permit.

Dick Walker, a member of the spills response team, characterized the $301,000 fine as “very large for the Department of Ecology.” He said Westmoreland was fined for three reasons: for failing to report an oil spill, for failing to clean up an oil spill and for the oil spill itself.

The fire response, oil spill response and the salvage of the boat from the floor of Penn Cove was performed by a team of public agencies, as well as the Coast Guard. State agencies, including the Department of Ecology and the Department of Natural Resources, spent more than $2.8 million on the incident.

Walker said the Department of Ecology recovered $1.56 million in spill response expenses from the National Pollution Fund Center; he said the federal government is going to go after Westmoreland to recoup the money.

On the night of May 12, 2012, the Deep Sea caught fire — in what was later determined to be arson — while illegally anchored on state-owned aquatic lands, according to the Department of Ecology. Westmoreland had the boat towed to Penn Cove in December of 2011; Walker said Westmoreland wouldn’t say what his plans were for the boat, though officials suspect that he planned to scrap it.

Firefighters attacked the fire that night and the next day, but it rolled on its port side and sank May 13.

Approximately 5,555 gallons of oil were released, according to the Department of Ecology.

Diving contractors hired by the U.S. Coast Guard removed 3,100 gallons of oil from the sunken vessel.

The boat was raised and towed to King County, where it was eventually cut up into scrap metal.

Westmoreland is scheduled to go to trial in Island County District Court Sept. 11 on the derelict vessel charge.

Jessie Stensland: 360-675-6611, ext. 5056; jstensland@whidbeynewsgroup.com.

More in Local News

A customer walks away after buying a hot dog from a vendor on 33rd St and Smith Street near the Everett Station on Friday. The Everett Station District Alliance pictures the area east of Broadway and south of Hewitt Avenue as a future neighborhood and transit hub that could absorb expected population growth. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
How can Everett Station become a vibrant part of city?

A neighborhood alliance focused on long-term revitalization will update the public Tuesday.

Agency didn’t expect such big demand for needle clean-up kits

The Snohomish Health District ran out of supplies quickly, but more are arriving daily.

EvCC teachers take their contract concerns to the board

Their union says negotiations have been disappointingly slow. The community college isn’t commenting.

Here’s what to do if you want to vote and aren’t registered

Oct. 30 is the deadline for new-voter registration in time for the November election.

Two teens struck by truck in Lynnwood

The teens, between the ages of 14 and 16, were taken to the hospital as a precaution.

Luring attempt reported in Mountlake Terrace

The driver allegedly instructed a boy to get in the truck and help grab a scooter he was giving away.

Injured hiker rescued near Granite Falls

Woman fell and hit her head on a rock Saturday, and her condition worsened overnight.

Man arrested after police find van full of drugs, cash and guns

An officer on patrol noticed a vehicle by itself in the middle of a WinCo parking lot at 2 a.m.

Crews recover body of man who fell over Wallace Falls

The area where the man fell is called Sky Valley Lookout, 2.4 miles from the parking lot.

Most Read