Mark Howard Bowers, the captain of a Washington fishing vessel called the Emerald Sea, on Wednesday pleaded not guilty in federal court to failing to report discharge of oil from the ship last summer.
On Aug. 29, 2016, the Emerald Sea spilled approximately 150 gallons of diesel fuel into the Sipanon River in Warrenton, near the Columbia River, while moored and transferring fuel between two tanks, according to a federal indictment.
Crew members of the Emerald Sea informed Bowers about the spill when he arrived at the dock between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. that day, but Bowers failed to disclose or report the spill to federal authorities until confronted by U.S. Coast Guard investigators about three hours after the Emerald Sea had left the dock, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan W. Bounds wrote in an indictment.
The Clean Water Act requires that anyone in charge of a vessel, as soon as he or she has knowledge of any discharge of oil or hazardous substance from the vessel in amounts that may be harmful to the public health, welfare or environment, immediately notify the appropriate federal agency.
Coast Guard officials tracked down the vessel in nearby Ilwaco and asked its captain to go back to the marina to clean up the spill. The officials also asked the captain to report the spill to the Coast Guard’s National Response Center.
Harbormasters and Emerald Sea crew members used absorbent pads to clean up the spill. The vessel’s home port is in Aberdeen, Washington.
Bowers, represented by assistant federal public defender Thomas Price, will remain out of custody as the charge is pending in U.S. District Court in Portland.
A two-day trial was tentatively set for May 16.
— Maxine Bernstein