Bret A. Simpson, the owner of Principle Metals, LLC, has pleaded guilty in US District Court in Tacoma to two criminal violations of the Clean Water Act; failing to report a discharge of oil, and unlawfully discharging oil into the Columbia River near Camas, Washington. The failure to report offense is punishable by up to five years in prison, while the unlawful discharge offense is punishable by up to one year in prison.
Simpson admits that he was informed about oil left on the barge Davy Crockett while conducting salvage operations. However, Simpson failed to have the oil removed before workers started cutting up the metal barge. When the first oil spill occurred in early December 2010, Simpson failed to notify authorities and failed to take any affirmative steps to monitor the vessel or protect it from natural forces and further structural damage.
Subsequent spills in January 2011 led U.S. Coast Guard investigators to identify the Davy Crockett as the source and initiate a federally funded cleanup effort. Ultimately the US Coast Guard spent eight months and about $20 million working with environmental authorities to clean up the spill and remove the derelict barge from the river.