Prison sentence in $22M Columbia oil spill case

SEATTLE — The owner of a derelict barge that required a $22 million cleanup after oil spilled into the Columbia River in southwest Washington has been sentenced to four months in prison.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Seattle said Bret Simpson of Ellensburg also was sentenced Monday to eight months of home detention. He earlier pleaded guilty to two criminal violations of the Clean Water Act.

Simpson admitted he was informed about fuel oil and diesel left on the Davy Crockett before salvage operations began. However, prosecutors said he failed to have the oil removed before workers began cutting up the metal barge for scrap. When the first oil spilled in December 2010, prosecutors say Simpson failed to notify authorities and failed to adequately monitor and protect the barge.

The Coast Guard and Washington state officials spent $22 million cleaning up the spill and removing the barge from the river near Camas. In January, Washington officials announced they were fining Simpson and his company, Principle Metals LLC, $405,000.

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