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Bouchard Must Pay Property Owners for 2003 Oil Spill

A Massachusetts jury agreed that Bouchard Transportation must pay eight property owners for oil damages to their beach front properties. The verdict is part of a larger class-action lawsuit involving 1,100 Mattapoisett property owners.

On April 27, 2003, the Bouchard No. 120 struck an underwater reef in Buzzards Bay after drifting outside a marked channel. The barge was punctured and leaked about 98,000 gallons of No. fuel oil. The mate of the tug EVENING TIDE and the company pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act. Bouchard paid the federal government $9 million in fines and the mate, Franklin Hill, served six months in federal prison. The spill soiled about 90 miles of coastline, killed birds and closed shellfish beds.

The damages awarded by the jury range from $1,575 to $22,650 and the fines will be doubled pursuant to state law. Additionally, the plaintiffs will receive 12 percent per annum interest from the date of the filing of the lawsuit in September 2004.

A second class-action lawsuit against Bouchard is pending in federal court. The lawsuit was filed by property owners outside the Mattapoisett area who are also seeking damages from the oil spill.