Ex-wastewater operator sentenced in Willamette River spill


Robert Webb apologized to the court and to Oregon

The Burnside Bridge over the Willamette River in Portland, July 15, 2019 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – A former wastewater plant operator for Union Pacific Railroad who allowed oil to seep from an overflowing tank into the Willamette River has been sentenced to two years of probation and a $2,500 fine.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports Robert LaRue Webb II negligently discharged oil from a storage tank at Union Pacific’s Albina Yard in North Portland in January 2018 after he was distracted by a cellphone call, according to court records.

Webb pleaded guilty in August to unlawful discharge of oil into the river in violation of the Clean Water Act.

About 1,800 gallons of oil were estimated to have been released into the river. Emergency response and cleanup cost Union Pacific more than $500,000. After the oil spill, Union Pacific installed an overflow alarm system, a concrete barrier and an overfill protection system at a cost of more than $80,000.

Webb apologized to the court and to the citizens of Oregon.

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