Law Street Media

United States Asks Court to Require Company to Pay $1 Million for Oil Spill Cleanup

Water with an oily rainbow-colored sheen on top.

Diesel oil spill on the water surface during a light rain storm.

The United States filed a complaint on Friday against Patriot Marine, LLC asking for the Massachusetts District Court to require the company to pay removal costs the plaintiff has already paid to clean up oil released into the waters of Great Harbor, Woods Hole, Massachusetts in January 2018. 

According to the complaint, oil spill cleanups can be financed through an Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which was used to clean up this specific spill, but the plaintiff purported that the defendants should still be liable for the costs under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. The costs the United States is seeking payment for included “all removal costs, natural resource damages, and interest resulting from the oil spill.” The complaint specified that the United States is not seeking natural resource damages or a judgment relating to the amount of destruction occurring through the oil spill to the environment or natural resources. 

The defendant is a company that participates in “marine construction and dredging,” according to the complaint. At the time of the oil spill, it was using a towboat called M/V OCEAN KING. The boat is reportedly 95 feet long and 199 tons, it was purchased in 2011 by Patriot Marine. Reportedly, the boat received hull damage after running aground on January 20, 2018 which led to the oil spill. 

Friday’s complaint recounted that the Coast Guard’s National Response Center received a report on January 21, 2018 that there was a “100 yard by 100 yard sheen” in the water and on rocks in Great Harbor which smelled like motor oil. Because the boat had moved and it was not immediately apparent who was at fault, outside parties began to clean up the oil, which spread to about two miles of the shoreline. Later, oil samples helped identify the M/V Ocean King as the source of the oil spill. 

The United States claimed that the costs associated with the cleanup totaled over $1 million. The plaintiff sent an invoice to Patriot Maine for the expense in May 2019, with a due date for payment in August of 2019 but reportedly the defendant has not paid back the costs for the removal of the oil spill. 

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