A hose split and spilled liquid manure that eventually drained into a creek, killing federally protected fish and leading to a $6,750 fine against a Whatcom County farmer in northwest Washington, officials said this week.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced the penalty against Harold Carbee of Bellingham in a press release Dec. 3.
The spill occurred May 5, 2018, and lasted at least 12 hours and killed more than 300 fish, including 89 steelhead smolts, which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, in Anderson Creek, according to NOAA.
Some $9 million has been spent on two bridges over the creek to improve passage for the threatened Puget Sound steelhead, according to NOAA.
"We owe it to everyone who works on salmon and steelhead recovery to make sure their hard work does not go to waste," Greg Busch, assistant director for NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast law enforcement office, said in a statement.
Efforts to reach Carbee for comment were unsuccessful.
Several agencies were involved in investigating the spill, including the Washington Department of Ecology. According to Ecology, a person reported the spill to the Washington State Patrol.
The liquid manure, which was being applied to a field, drained into a ditch that emptied into the creek, according to Ecology. The manure was from Carbee's heifer-raising operation, according to Ecology.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife also investigated and told Carbee the day after the spill to build a berm to contain manure-contaminated water in pools. A Fish and Wildlife biologist reported counting 309 dead fish on May 7 and May 8.
NOAA informed Carbee in October that he faced a $7,500 civil penalty for violating the ESA, but that he could have the fine discounted by 10% if he agreed to it.
Carbee could have asked for a hearing in front of an administrative law judge, but would have risked the maximum fine if found guilty, according to NOAA's notice to Carbee.
The maximum civil penalty for the section of the ESA Carbee was accused of violating is $25,000.