Ecology Says Olympia Brewery Owner Owes It $11.37 Million for Oil Spill Cleanup


The state Department of Ecology has delivered its oil spill cleanup invoice to the owner of the former Olympia brewery in Tumwater, a bill that totals $11.37 million, the agency announced.

The owner of the property, Tumwater Development LLC, now has 30 days to appeal that amount and a penalty to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board. A contact associated with the owner could not be reached.

In addition to the $11.37 million, which would be used to replenish the state's oil spill response fund, the brewery property owner also faces a $14,000 penalty and a natural resources damage assessment. That amount is still being determined, according to Ecology.

Ecology spokesman Ty Keltner said the $14,000 penalty and the amount still to be determined would support grants issued by the agency.

Ecology responded to an oil spill from a vandalized transformer at the former, but more modern Olympia brewery site on Custer Way in February 2019. About 600 gallons of oil spilled into storm drains, the then-called Tumwater Falls Park and the Deschutes River, which flows into Capitol Lake and Puget Sound. The cleanup lasted until September 2019.

Although the brewery owner had nothing to do the vandalized transformer, state law is clear that if you're the property owner, it is your responsibility, said Keltner about the damaged equipment.

Tumwater police did not develop any suspect leads associated with the vandalism and the case is now inactive, Lt. Jen Kolb said. However, new, credible information about the incident could change the case's status, she said.

Those who responded to the cleanup removed more than three miles of oil-contaminated shoreline vegetation and excavated PCB-contaminated soil from Tumwater Falls Park, Ecology officials said in a news release.

The spilled oil also sank into the lake bed sediment of Capitol Lake.

"Cleaning up this oil that sank and contained PCBs was incredibly complex, time intensive and required tremendous resources," said Dave Byers, Ecology's spill response section manager, in a statement. "Testing of sediments in Budd Inlet showed that our quick response did not allow PCBs to migrate into Puget Sound, preventing further environmental damage."

Ecology says its immediate action prevented Capitol Lake, Tumwater Falls Park and adjacent private property from becoming formal toxic cleanup sites that would have taken years to clean up at a far greater expense.

The $11.37 million bill is the latest challenge for Tumwater Development LLC and its primary member, Chandulal Patel, who bought the property in December 2015. The brewery closed in June 2003. Patel is a developer who is thought to split his time between India and California.

Since 2015, the brewery property has been damaged by fire and fell into disrepair, finally causing Tumwater officials to step and demand more care-taking responsibility from the owner.