WA state settles action against owner of former Olympia brewery site over 2019 oil spill

Courtesy of Washington State Department of Ecology

The owner of the former Olympia Brewing Co. property in Tumwater has agreed to pay Washington state about $2.3 million in penalties and costs for a 2019 oil spill.

The state Department of Ecology reached the settlement with Tumwater Development LLC, which is owned by Chandulal Patel, according to a Wednesday news release.

About 586 gallons of oil spilled from a vandalized transformer on the brewery property on Custer Way in February 2019. The oil flowed into storm drains, Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls and the Deschutes River which connects to Capitol Lake.

Ecology responded to the spill and spent six months cleaning up the spill. With this settlement, Tumwater Development LLC agreed to pay a $14,000 penalty in full and $2.25 million to reimburse the state for its spill response.

The company also agreed to pay a $30,430 Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA). This amount covers the impact of the oil spill on publicly owned resources as evaluated by Ecology, according to the news release.

Additionally, the news release says the company will pay $750,000 to the Squaxin Island Tribe for a restoration project in the Lower Deschutes River Watershed.

Carlos Clements, Ecology’s Spill Program Manager, said in the news release that he felt thankful for each party’s work on this agreement.

“Not only do we have a resolution to this long, complex cleanup operation, but we will see environmental improvement through the restoration project with the Squaxin Island Tribe,” Clements said.

Though significant, the settlement falls short of the $11.37 million that the state billed to Tumwater Development LLC in 2021.

At the time, Dave Byers, Ecology’s spill response section manager, said the state’s response was “incredibly complex, time intensive and required tremendous resources.”

The oil reportedly contained polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which are toxic chemicals that can accumulate in the aquatic food web when released into water bodies. The release says these chemicals can build up over time, potentially harming fish, wildlife and people.

Clean-up crews removed over three miles of oil-contaminated lakeshore vegetation and excavated contaminated soil from Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls, the news release says. Divers also removed contaminated sediment from Capitol Lake.

“Testing of sediments in Budd Inlet showed that our quick response did not allow PCBs to migrate into Puget Sound, preventing further environmental damage,” Byers said in 2021.