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DEQ issues $30,400 in penalties for oil discharge

by: FILE PHOTO - The Scappoose Automobilia Quick Lube and Car Wash paid $14,400 in DEQ penalties Feb. 27 for dumping more than 6,500 gallons of a water and oil mix into a storm drain in 2012.The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality on Feb. 6 fined a Scappoose business owner and a plumber a total $30,400 for polluting a nearby creek, according to a March 3 press release from the agency.

Automobilia Quick Lube and Car Wash, and Patrick Sleven, of the plumbing company Plumb Crazy, were convicted in January on water pollution charges after pumping a mixture of motor oil and water into Jackson Creek in October 2012. Jackson Creek ultimately flows to the Columbia River.

Plumb Crazy and Automobilia pumped more than 6,500 gallons of the the oil-and-water mix into a storm drain, which then flowed into Jackson Creek, according to DEQ. The incident created an oily sheen on the creek, which leads to the Columbia Slough.

DEQ issued a $16,000 penalty to Slevin for releasing oil into state waters and a $14,400 penalty to Automobilia for the same violation. DEQ took into account Automobilia's effort to pay for subsequent cleanup work at the site in issuing its fine.

The violation occurred when the basement of the express lube facility filled with an oil-and-water mix after a sump pump failed. Automobilia hired Slevin and directed its employees and Slevin to pump the mixture directly into a nearby parking lot storm drain using a hose and a larger pump.

All of the approximately 6,560 gallons of the mixture in the basement was pumped into the storm drain and some of the oily water reached Jackson Creek, which was less than a mile from the drain, according to a DEQ press release.

Columbia County also issued Slevin and Richard Day, owner of Automobilia, minimal charges of about $100 each when convicted of their charges. Columbia County District Attorney Steve Atchison said the fines were low as the county understood DEQ would later issue larger fines for cleanup costs.

Slevin’s indictment indicates he violated the law with criminal negligence by “causing waste to be placed in a location where [it was] likely to be carried into the waters of the state.”

Day pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor of failing to report an oil spill, Atchison said, adding that Day negotiated the plea a few weeks prior to Slevin’s Jan. 23 trial.

DEQ highlighted the hazards associated with dumping pollutants in its press release.

“Oil released into creeks, rivers and other water bodies can seriously damage aquatic life and ecosystems, and can reduce the safety of public waters for public use,” the press release stated. “In issuing the penalties to both parties, DEQ noted its concern because both Automobilia Inc. and Slevin intentionally caused the release.”

Automobilia paid its DEQ penalty Feb. 27. Slevin will also have an opportunity to pay or appeal his penalty.