Settlement adds $13 million to Bouchard’s Buzzards Bay oil spill bill

Image: Pressman
Image: Pressman – Buzzards Bay is renowned for recreational pursuits.

Bouchard Transportation Company could pay more than US$13 million to settle natural resource damages claims for an April 2003 spill of up to 370,000 litres of oil into Buzzards Bay.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the State of Rhode Island announced the proposed settlement which, if approved by the court, compensates for injury to migratory birds.

Bouchard has already paid the federal and state natural resources trustees $6 million to resolve the trustees’ claims for injuries to shoreline and aquatic resources, coastal recreational uses and piping plovers, bringing the total combined natural resource damages recovery to more than $19 million.

The tug Evening Tide was towing the tank barge Bouchard B.120 from Philadelphia to Sandwich, Massachusetts on April 27, 2003, when the barge grounded on a shoal soon after entering the western approach to Buzzards Bay. Its hull ruptured, releasing No.6 fuel oil.

For weeks following the spill, migrating birds such as loons and sea ducks were exposed to oil as they fed in offshore waters, while terns and shorebirds tried to nest in the oiled shoreline along islands and beaches.

Biologists estimated that thousands of birds, including loons, terns, eiders, dunlins, scoters, and gulls, were killed as a result of the spill. It also affected their breeding.

“Buzzards Bay is a national treasure and known throughout the world for its natural beauty, wildlife, commercial activities and recreation,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.

“This settlement will allow us to begin the work needed to address the oil spill’s devastating impacts on injured migratory bird species, while sending a message that those who damage our valuable coastal resources will pay a hefty price.”

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