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Tanker that likely caused foul odor in Bellingham will offload soon, air agency says

BP refinery on Sept. 19, 2013 in Whatcom County. A tanker waiting in Samish Bay to offload crude oil at the refinery was likely the cause of a foul odor reported Saturday in south Bellingham, the Northwest Clean Air Agency said.
BP refinery on Sept. 19, 2013 in Whatcom County. A tanker waiting in Samish Bay to offload crude oil at the refinery was likely the cause of a foul odor reported Saturday in south Bellingham, the Northwest Clean Air Agency said. The Bellingham Herald file

An oil tanker that air quality officials say likely caused a sulfur-like odor on the south side Saturday has moved to begin offloading at BP’s Cherry Point refinery.

The tanker Mare Siculum was perhaps the source of a foul smell that prompted 911 calls from residents in the Fairhaven and Edgemoor neighborhoods Saturday night, according to the Northwest Clean Air Agency.

The ship, which was anchored near Vendovi Island, was venting the tanks of crude oil on board to relieve pressure, the agency said, citing a BP representative.

Bellingham Fire officials, at the time of the reports, could not locate the source of the stench. Winds were blowing from the tanker’s location to the area where callers reported the smell, the air quality agency said.

The tanker was originally scheduled to stay anchored in Samish Bay for another week, the agency said Wednesday.

“The BP folks worked through the night to move some oil around to accommodate the tanker,” said Seth Preston, a spokesman for the Mount Vernon-based agency.

The Mare Siculum is expected to arrive at the refinery later Wednesday, the agency said. The off-loading process is expected to take between 24 and 36 hours, Preston said, adding that further venting shouldn’t impact communities near the refinery.

The agency, which enforces air quality regulations in Island, Skagit and Whatcom counties, does not have jurisdiction over mobile sources like tankers anchored in open waters. With the tanker docked at the refinery, the agency’s jurisdiction is still “iffy,” Preston said.

The Bellingham Herald reporter Robert Mittendorf contributed to this article.

Kyle Mittan: 360-756-2803, @KyleMittan

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