Cleanup crews hired by a Tacoma shipbuilder removed small orange balls of lubricant from Maury Island beaches today, under the oversight of the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) and the U.S. Coast Guard.
J.M. Martinac Shipbuilding Corp. (Martinac) of Tacoma cooperated in the cleanup effort. The company uses the material, called Neptune Slip Coat, to lubricate rails when launching ships.
During a pre-dawn ship launching on Jan. 25, 2013, at the company’s shipyard on the Thea Foss Waterway in Tacoma, some of the lubricant floated away in the darkness. Martinac provided shoreline cleanup in Tacoma’s Browns Point area on Feb. 7 and 8 after residents reported the material on beaches there.
Today’s cleanup covered 2.5 miles of shoreline extending southwest from Point Robinson. Two five-member crews removed balls of lubricant that ranged in size from about a quarter inch to about four inches. They also collected beach materials smeared with the lubricant.
Ecology responded Tuesday to citizen reports of the bright orange material on the Maury Island shore of Puget Sound’s East Passage between Seattle and Tacoma. Agency officials connected these reports with the earlier cleanup at Browns Point.
“We appreciate Martinac’s readiness to take responsibility for these cleanups and see them through,” said Kimberly Medicus, Ecology’s on-scene spill response coordinator.
“In our 90 years building boats in Tacoma, we have always taken our responsibilities seriously,” said Martinac Vice President Jonathan Platt. “We regret the release of this material and are fully committed to cleaning it up wherever it may be found. Ship launches do require lubrication, and we seek and use materials with the least possible potential for environmental harm.”
The company has been working with Ecology to review its practices to prevent and recover releases of lubricants when launching ships.
People who see more orange grease balls on beaches should contact 1-800-OILS-911.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Washington State Department of Natural Resources assisted in the response.