EPA Action: Agency works with states to improve water permitting
In other EPA developments: Agency proposes better science to protect aquatic life; Kinder Morgan faces charges at Sparks, Nev., oil storage facility; Data updated on 1997 national sediments survey; DuPont charged with withholding information in Teflon case; Cruiseline pleads guilty to illegal discharge of sewage into Juneau, Alaska, harbor...
In addition, the following other EPA actions and development may interest you:
-- Four Louisiana sewage treatment plants and two operators sign plea agreements
-- Ex-Delaware official charged with dumping contaminated water in wetlands
-- Ex-Alabama utilities board manager pleads guilty to falsifying discharge report
-- Iowa dairy farmer convicted of illegal dumping of manure, dairy waste
-- Cleanup completed at a portion of Ciba Geigy Superfund site
-- Agency proposes using better science to protect aquatic life
-- 276 more parties settle in Plaistow, N.H. Superfund case
-- Kinder Morgan faces charges at Sparks, Nev., oil storage facility
-- Data updated on 1997 national sediments survey
-- Three defendants and company sentenced in lead paint waste case
-- CEO convicted in ocean dumping of wheat meant as humanitarian aid
-- New claim against DuPont alleges it withheld information in Teflon case
-- Cruiseline pleads guilty to illegal discharge of sewage into Juneau harbor...
EPA Works with States to Improve Water Permitting
WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 15, 2004 -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is implementing a nationwide assessment to improve the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit programs. This assessment, Permitting for Environmental Results (PER), is the result of a 16-month effort by the states and EPA to evaluate the management of NPDES programs. The culmination of this effort is documented in the 33 NPDES individual state profiles that are being released Dec. 15, with the remaining state profiles released in early 2005.
EPA and the states have been working through a detailed process to carefully assess each of their NPDES programs to gauge effectiveness, identify strengths and target areas for improvement. The profiles are intended as a guide for state and EPA managers as they work to strengthen and ensure the long-term success of each NPDES program. This effort began in August 2003, and includes three primary components to enhance the NPDES program:
* Integrity -- Ensuring that NPDES programs have the information and tools they need to issue effective permits
* Program Efficiency -- Providing tools to the states and sharing information among NPDES programs to streamline the permitting process to effectively apply resources where needed in each watershed
* Environmental Results -- Identifying environmentally significant permits, prioritizing and reissuing them to improve water quality.
EPA will continue to work with each program to address the needed improvements identified in the profiles and then track their progress. The Agency plans to formalize a management system for the NPDES program to ensure consistent quality and effectiveness across all NPDES programs.
Under the Clean Water Act, the NPDES program regulates discharges to waters of the United States from point sources such as municipal sewage treatment plants and industrial facilities. States may seek authorization to operate the NPDES program, and, today, 45 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands have this authorization. EPA is the permitting authority in unauthorized states, territories and Indian country. Information on the Permitting for Environmental Results strategy visit: www.epa.gov/npdes/per. For general information about the NPDES permit program visit: www.epa.gov/npdes.
Enforcement Wrap-up for Week of Dec. 15
Four Louisiana Sewage Treatment Plants and Two Plant Operators Sign Plea Agreements: On Nov. 22, four Livingston Parish sewage treatment plants and two operators were charged in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana in Baton Rouge with violating the Clean Water Act by failing to test wastewater discharges and by failing to file discharge monitoring reports on wastewater that was discharged into the Amite River between November 2000 and January 2002. The defendants signed a plea agreement, which if accepted by the court, will carry the following penalties: The Sewer Company Inc., pleaded to a felony violation and will pay a $250,000 fine and $14,000 in restitution. The other five defendants, Intrinsic Inc.; 45,000 Inc.; NTL Inc.; John W. Easterly; and Saun A. Sullivan, have each pleaded to misdemeanor violations and have each agreed to pay fines of $25,000 and restitution of $2,500. Not monitoring wastewater discharges to surface waters has the potential to harm fish, wildlife and humans who come into contact with the waters. The case was investigated by the Baton Rouge Office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and is being prosecuted by the U.S. attorney's office for the Middle District of Louisiana.
Ex-Delaware Official Charged with Clean Water Act Violation: William Daisey of Milton, Del., was charged on Dec. 2 in U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware in Wilmington with violating the Clean Water Act by allegedly directing that water contaminated with hydrocarbons be discharged into a wetland area that borders the Great Marsh which, in turn, borders the Broadkill River. Daisey was the chief of operations for the Dredging Program of the Delaware Division of Soil and Water Conservation which is part of the Delaware Division of Natural Resources and Environmental Controls (DNREC). The Dredging Program was located at the site of a closed clam processing plant operated by the Doxsee Food Company. Doxsee sold the site to the DNREC which used it as a base of operation for their dredge vessels, beach restoration equipment and crews. The site contained several tanks of used oil, and Daisey separated the oil from the water to recover the oil to use as a heating fuel. Water left over from the process was collected in 600 gallon tanks which were then allegedly emptied into the wetland between January 2000 and April 2001. The Dredging Program did not have a permit to dispose of this contaminated water in the wetlands. The case was investigated by the Philadelphia Office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. attorney's office in Wilmington.
Former Alabama Utilities Board Manager Pleads Guilty to Clean Water Act Charges: Harry Still, Jr., former manager of the Bay Minette Public Utility Board, pleaded guilty on Dec. 1 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, in Mobile, to violating the Clean Water Act (CWA) by falsifying a discharge monitoring report filed with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. Still managed the Harry Still, Sr., Wastewater Treatment Plant near Mobile, Ala. From March 1 to March 31, 2004, Still reported that the minimum pH, maximum nitrogen and maximum ammonia concentrations in effluent from the plant was within the limits of the plant's National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit, when in fact the effluent was out of compliance. The investigation was initiated after it was discovered that the Bay Minette Utilities Board had failed to report the discharge of millions of gallons of untreated sewage into Hollinger's Creek through a discharge pipe that dated from the 1940s and was never removed after the passage of the CWA. False reporting on discharge monitoring reports makes it very difficult for regulators to determine if surface waters are being properly protected. The case was investigated by the Jackson, Miss., Office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the EPA Office of Inspector General and the Alabama Attorney General's Investigations Division with assistance from EPA Region 4. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. attorney's office in Mobile with prosecutorial assistance being provided by the Alabama attorney general's office and Criminal Enforcement Counsel from EPA Region 4.
Iowa Dairy Farmer Convicted of Violating Clean Water Act: Carl Simon, owner and operator of Simon Dairy in Farley, Iowa, was convicted on Dec. 2 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa in Cedar Rapids on four counts of violating the Clean Water Act. The charges arose from the defendant's illegal dumping of cow manure and waste milk into Hogan's Branch, a tributary of the Mississippi River. The illegal discharges occurred between May of 2003 and January of 2004. Simon illegally disposed of the cow manure by using a honey wagon and by using two eighty-foot trenches dug from his dairy manure lagoon to a steep embankment overlooking Hogan's Branch. He illegally discharged the waste milk into Hogan's Branch by using a four-inch PVC pipe. Simon has an extensive enforcement history with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and was previously placed under an administrative order and fined $5,000 for illegal discharges into the Branch. He refused to pay the fine or make any of the changes in his disposal practices required by the administrative order. Dumping cow manure and waste milk into surface waters can make the waters unfit for human use and can harm fish and wildlife. The case was investigated by the Iowa attorney general's office, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, the IDNR and the St. Louis Office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division. The case was prosecuted by the U.S. attorney's office in Cedar Rapids.
Cleanup Completed at a Portion of Ciba Geigy Site
NEW YORK, N.Y., Dec. 14, 2004 -- In less than a year - and fully six months ahead of schedule - 47,055 drums were removed from a disposal area located on the Ciba-Geigy Chemical Corp. Superfund site in Toms River, N.J. The cleanup was performed by Ciba Specialty Chemical Corp., with oversight from the EPA Region 2 Office and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"This marks a major milestone in the ongoing cleanup of this site," said Acting EPA Regional Administrator Kathleen C. Callahan. "By removing these drums, we have also removed a source of the contamination and have taken a big step toward completing the cleanup."
The Ciba-Geigy Chemical Corporation Superfund site encompasses approximately 1,400 acres of developed and undeveloped land, including wetlands. From 1952 to 1990, Ciba manufactured dyes, pigments, resins and epoxy additives on the property. The company buried sludge and chemical process wastes in drums, or disposed of them in lagoons and other areas. Contamination from some of these areas is leaching into the ground water. Both ground water and soil at the site are contaminated, primarily with volatile organic compounds. The site was listed on the National Priorities List of the nation's most hazardous waste sites in 1983, and EPA subsequently began studies of the nature and extent of the contamination.
To eliminate potential threats to people's health, all affected residential irrigation wells were closed in 1991. Under EPA's oversight, Ciba installed a treatment system to address contaminated ground water. The full-scale operation of this system began in March 1996. The plant treats approximately two million gallons of water per day. Treated water is reinjected into the ground at the site.
In September 2000, EPA selected a cleanup for the site which includes an on-site process to treat approximately 150,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil. The treatment process uses bacteria that already exist in the soil to break down and ingest the contaminants. The soil treatment began in July 2004 and is expected to continue for about five years.
EPA's cleanup plan also included removing drums from a disposal area used from 1972 through 1977. That cleanup, the subject of today's announcement, is now completed. Any drums of waste material encountered during the remaining cleanup work at the site will be disposed of in the same manner as those found in the drum disposal area.
For additional information about the Ciba-Geigy Chemical Corporation Superfund site, please visit the following Websites: www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/nj.htm, or www.cibageigysite.org.
EPA Proposes Using Better Science to Protect Aquatic Life
WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 9, 2004 -- The EPA is requesting review from the scientific community on a better approach for protecting aquatic life in watersheds from the impacts of selenium. By establishing a level of selenium in fish tissue, instead of water, the Agency expects that states will be able to further protect fish in each watershed where selenium contamination is a concern.
The agency is proposing a fish-tissue based criterion because fish tissue samples provide a better indicator of the presence of selenium in a particular waterbody. Fish move throughout a waterbody and absorb into their tissue contaminants like selenium that may be present in the water. As a result, fish tissue more effectively reflects both the level and duration of contamination in the water over time.
The current water-column-based approach is more limited because it only provides information about the presence of contamination at the specific place and time where the sample is taken. The draft approach represents the Agency's consideration of peer review comments and coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The draft aquatic life criterion will not be finalized until EPA has received and considered additional broad scientific review.
This draft approach only applies to aquatic life and does not apply to wildlife, such as birds that consume fish. The Agency is currently working with a team of scientists, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to develop a national methodology for developing criteria that protect wildlife as well as aquatic life.
Selenium is a naturally occurring element that is essential to life, but it can be toxic in excess and can reduce survival of young fish. Selenium can either be found naturally or in releases from certain agricultural and industrial activities. There will be a 120-day review period for "The Draft Aquatic Life Water Quality Criteria for Selenium 2004" that will begin upon publication in the Federal Register. The document is available at: www.epa.gov/seleniumcriteria/. General information about water quality criteria is available at: www.epa.gov/waterscience/criteria/.
EPA Settles with 276 More Parties at Plaistow, N.H. Superfund Site
BOSTON, Dec. 9, 2004 -- The EPA Region 1 Office and N.H. Department of Environmental Services (NH DES) today announced a settlement with 276 parties, including companies and municipalities in Mass., N.H. and R.I. that resolves their liability at the Beede Waste Oil Superfund Site in Plaistow, N.H., while contributing to the cost of cleaning up this heavily contaminated site. This is the fourth settlement at the 40-acre toxic waste site which was extensively contaminated from the 1920's until the closing of the facility in 1994. This settlement represents a continued large-scale effort by the agency to provide small-volume contributors of hazardous waste with an opportunity to avoid lengthy Superfund negotiations.
This fourth settlement brings the total number of parties who have settled with EPA and NH DES to 1,199, and it brings the total amount of money raised in all four settlements to more than $17.3 million. Settlement funds are currently being held in a special EPA site-specific account, for future application to costs associated with the cleanup of the site.
The EPA offered to settle with individual small-volume contributors based on the amount of hazardous waste the party contributed to Beede. The settlement includes parties who contributed up to 20,000 gallons of hazardous waste to the site, and offers ranged between $2,000 and $140,000. Of the 775 parties given an opportunity to settle their liability in this fourth settlement round, 276 parties chose to accept the offer and conclude their involvement with Beede. By accepting the offer to settle, the parties are released from all EPA and state of N.H. cleanup costs associated with the site, and are protected from potential contribution lawsuits for the cost of cleanup by other liable parties.
The offers were issued in May 2004, and closed on August 9, 2004. The settlement was made effective on December 6, 2004, following a legally required notice and public comment period.
"EPA has used every creative tool possible to provide fair, equitable, and early settlement opportunities to small contributors," said Ira Leighton, deputy regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "With nearly 1,200 parties settled, EPA and NH DES can now focus our efforts on reaching an agreement with the remaining major parties to conduct the final phase of cleanup at the site."
With this fourth settlement completed, EPA will begin final negotiations for performance of the cleanup with parties identified by EPA as "major" parties, "transporters," "owners/operators," and other generators who have yet to settle with EPA. Forty-two parties responsible for roughly half of the hazardous wastes brought to the site will be required to pay the largest portion of the cleanup costs and/or perform the cleanup itself.
The Beede site, located in a residential Plaistow neighborhood, was a waste oil storage and recycling facility from the1920s through August 1994. Waste oil seeped out of Beede's storage facilities which included an unlined lagoon, and above and underground storage tanks. The Beede site was listed as a federal Superfund site in 1996. EPA, under a cooperative agreement with the NH DES has been addressing the most threatening contamination at the site such as above- and below-ground waste storage tanks as well as free-floating waste oil in groundwater.
In January 2004, EPA announced a $48 million comprehensive cleanup plan for completing the final phase of cleanup of the site. The plan, called a Record of Decision, addresses soil, sediment, groundwater and surface water contamination at the site. Soil at the site is contaminated with various chemicals, most notably polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and lead. Groundwater is contaminated primarily with volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
To date, EPA and NH DES have spent a combined $22 million for cleanup and investigation work at the site. For more information about the site, see: www.epa.gov/region1/superfund/sites/beede/index.htm.
Kinder Morgan Faces Charges at Sparks, Nev., Oil Storage Facility
SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 8, 2004 -- Yesterday, the EPA Region 9 Office charged Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, LP for alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act at its oil storage and terminal facility in Sparks, Nev.
The EPA is seeking up to $157,500 in penalties from the company, which is the largest transporter of gasoline and petroleum products in the nation. The company's west coast headquarters office is located in Orange, Calif.
The facility did not conduct at least ten emergency notification drills, which are required quarterly, over the past five years. Kinder Morgan also failed to conduct two oil spill response drills that require the use of emergency equipment. These drills must be conducted annually.
The EPA cited the company for failing to conduct emergency response drills at its facility at 301 Nugget Ave. The facility, which is located about one mile from the Truckee River, has the capacity to store more than one million gallons of oil.
"Kinder Morgan is jeopardizing the environment by violating the Clean Water Act," said Keith Takata, director of the EPA's superfund program for the Pacific Southwest region. "Exercising emergency response measures is a crucial component of oil spill response planning."
The EPA emphasizes the importance of spill response training, noting that over the past two years several oil spills have occurred at Kinder Morgan's facilities in Arizona and California. Last month, a pipeline near Baker, Calif. was shutdown after the discovery of a gasoline leak. Last April, more than 100,000 gallons of oil spilled into a marsh near Suisun, Calif. from a ruptured pipeline. In 2003, roughly 32,000 gallons of oil was released near Tucson, Ariz. from a corroded pipeline.
The EPA discovered the alleged violations following an unannounced inspection of the facility's response capability conducted last July. The inspection required the facility to respond to a simulation of an oil spill into the Truckee River.
Kinder Morgan and its subsidiaries operate more than 25,000 miles of oil pipelines nationwide. The company transports more than two million barrels per day of gasoline and petroleum products per day.
The EPA's spill prevention regulations require non-transportation related facilities that store large amounts of oil to maintain a plan for responding to a worst-case scenario spill. Facilities must train all personnel to properly respond to an oil spill by conducting drills and training sessions. Facilities must also have a plan that outlines steps to contain, clean up, and mitigate any effects that an oil spill may have on waterways.
The company is required to respond to the charges in the complaint by early January.
EPA Updates Information on Sediments
WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 8, 2004 -- EPA is releasing an updated Report to Congress on National Sediment Quality that assesses and describes the quality of aquatic sediments in rivers, lakes, oceans and estuary bottoms in the United States from 1980 to 1999. This report is an update to the 1997 National Sediment Quality Survey that also assesses changes in sediment contamination over time where data is available. EPA evaluated sediment contaminant data from previously published documents at 19,398 sampling stations and found either a decrease or no change in sediment contamination on a regional level. This report is intended only to be an inventory of sediment sampling since the samples were not taken uniformly, were complied by different groups and do not cover the entire country. The data in the report cannot be used to determine trends in areas of the country where data is absent. To help manage localized problems of contaminated sediment, EPA is working through and with environmental laws, other Federal agencies, and State and local authorities reduce the sources, abate contamination problems, manage dredged sediments, and develop scientifically sound management tools. General information about sediments and the report entitled "The Incidence and Severity of Sediment Contamination in Surface Waters of the United States: National Sediment Quality Survey, Second Edition" are available at: www.epa.gov/waterscience/cs. http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/cs .
Enforcement Wrap-up for Week of Dec. 8
Three Defendants and Company Sentenced in Lead Paint Waste Case: On Nov. 19, defendants Nicholas Muskie, Kevin Foster and corporate defendant Kerrville Painting Company Inc., of Kerrville, Texas, were sentenced in Federal District Court, Eastern District of Arkansas for their role in violations of federal hazardous waste disposal and clean water laws. Nicholas Muskie, the owner of Kerrville Painting, was sentenced to three years in prison. Kevin Foster, a former Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department Inspector, was sentenced on one year in prison and has paid $5,768.00 in restitution for clean-up costs. The Kerrville Painting company was sentenced to five years probation and to pay $324,613 in clean-up costs resulting from the violations. The criminal violations arose from sandblasting and painting work the company did under highway bridge contracts in northeast Arkansas in 1999 and 2000. A fourth defendant, Cecil Zimmerman, who was a supervisor at Kerrville Painting, was sentenced in October 2004 to serve three years of probation which includes six months of home detention. The defendants were involved in a scheme that caused the illegal discharge of lead-contaminated materials into the Black River from two different bridge locations. Bridge sandblasting and painting typically generates wastes contaminated with lead which must be disposed of properly to avoid exposure of the public, fish and wildlife to lead and lead compounds. Exposure to sufficient quantities of lead can cause neurological disorders, developmental disorders, birth defects, diseases of the blood and kidneys and even death. The case was investigated by the Dallas and Houston Offices of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation's Office of General Counsel, the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office Environmental Protection Unit, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, and the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality. It was prosecuted by the U.S. attorney's office in Little Rock, Ark.
CEO Convicted in Illegal Ocean Dumping of Contaminated Wheat: Rick D. Stickle, Chairman and CEO of Sabine Transportation Inc., of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was convicted on Nov. 23 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Miami on charges of conspiracy, and of obstructing a Coast Guard investigation by giving false statements. The charges arose from the improper ocean dumping of approximately 442 metric tons of wheat that had become contaminated with diesel fuel. The dumping took place in the South China Sea in February 1999. The wheat had been intended for humanitarian relief in Bangladesh, but it had become contaminated with oil while on the ship. Rather than pay for proper disposal of the wheat, the defendant engaged in a conspiracy to dump it at sea and falsely claim that it had been processed through the ship's pollution control equipment before it was discharged. In reality, the pollution control equipment aboard the ship was not designed to handle this type of waste. Dumping of oily wastes which have not been properly passed through pollution control equipment can harm fish and aquatic life. Sabine Transportation, and other defendants; Michael R. Reeve, President of Sabine; Michael M. Krider, Port Engineer, George K. McKay, Master of the S.S. Juneau; and Phillip J. Hitchens, Chief Officer of the S.S. Juneau, previously pleaded guilty in this case. The case was investigated by the St. Louis and Jacksonville Area Offices of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service and the FBI. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of Florida, the U.S. attorney's office for the Northern District of Iowa and the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.
EPA Files New Claim Alleging DuPont Withheld PFOA Information
WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 6, 2004 -- The EPA filed a new claim against DuPont seeking penalties for withholding the results of human blood sampling information that demonstrates levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) - a chemical used in production of Teflon coatings - in individuals living near a DuPont Facility in West Virginia.
The administrative complaint seeks penalties of up to $32,500 per day from as early as Aug. 28 through Oct. 12, 2004, for failing to report this substantial risk information under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). EPA received this information, which should have been reported immediately by DuPont, several weeks after DuPont allegedly received the results. EPA has also filed a Motion to Consolidate this new Complaint with a previous Complaint filed against DuPont on July 8, 2004, so that the agency may pursue both actions against DuPont in one proceeding before Administrative Law Judge Barbara A. Gunning.
At issue in this enforcement action is information that DuPont obtained and failed to report regarding blood serum analysis performed in July 2004 of 12 members of the general population living near DuPont's Washington Works Facility. Each of the 12 individuals tested was exposed to PFOA through drinking water provided by the Lubeck Public Service District where, according to DuPont, the level of PFOA in the drinking water has averaged approximately 0.5 parts per billion (ppb) over the last several years. All 12 of the individuals tested claim to have stopped using the contaminated public drinking water as their primary source of drinking water approximately three years ago. While the average background level of PFOA in individuals residing in the United States is estimated to be approximately 5 ppb, the documented levels of PFOA in these 12 individuals from West Virginia range from 15.7 ppb to 128 ppb, with a mean of 67 ppb.
The agency regards this information as useful in its ongoing priority review of PFOA. EPA has been closely studying PFOA for the past three years and will issue a draft risk assessment in early 2005. To learn more about the agency's study of PFOA, visit: www.epa.gov/oppt/pfoa/.
PFOA is associated with Ammonium Perfluorooctanoate (APFO), a synthetic processing aid in the manufacture of fluoropolymers, including some products at DuPont's Washington Works Facility in Washington, W.Va. The previous complaint against DuPont involved information about the movement of PFOA from a pregnant woman to her baby, and the contamination of public drinking water supplies in the vicinity of DuPont's Washington Works Facility.
EPA's announcement of the first complaint was posted on July 8, 2004 in the News Releases section of the agency's website.
To view the new complaint, visit: www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/complaints/civil/mm/dupont2-pfoa-complaint.pdf.
Cruiseline to Plead Guilty to Illegal Discharge of Sewage into Juneau Harbor
ANCHORAGE, AK, Dec. 7, 2004 -- Rear Admiral James C. Olson, Commander 17th U.S. Coast Guard District, Timothy Burgess, U.S. Attorney for the District of Alaska, and Thomas V. Skinner, EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, announced today that HAL Maritime Ltd, an operating company of Holland America Line Cruise Ships, has agreed to plead guilty to federal criminal charges arising out of the negligent discharge of 20,000 gallons of untreated sewage into Juneau harbor from the cruise ship Ryndam in August 2002.
On behalf of the EPA Region 10 Office, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Alaska filed criminal charges against HAL under a federal law passed in 2000 that makes it a crime for cruise ships to discharge untreated sewage into the waters surrounding Alaska. Seeking to resolve the federal charges, HAL entered into a plea agreement with the United States in which it accepts responsibility for causing 20,000 gallons of untreated sewage to be discharged from the cruise ship Ryndam while it was docked in Juneau on Aug. 17, 2002. HAL has admitted that the discharge was caused by its failure to implement adequate operational controls, impose proper training requirements, and develop thorough response measures to prevent, timely detect and properly report the release of untreated sewage.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, HAL will plead guilty to negligently discharging untreated sewage and pay the statutory maximum $200,000 fine. HAL will also perform community restitution by paying an additional $500,000 to the National Forest Foundation, a non-profit organization, for use in reducing the amount of untreated sewage and other pollutants that enter the watersheds and coastal environment of Southeast Alaska.
In addition to a fine and community service, the plea agreement also requires HAL to spend an additional $1.3 million to implement a Focused Environmental Compliance Plan that mandates new environmental safeguards, improved systems and more comprehensive training onboard all of Holland America's fleet of cruise ships. Under the Compliance Plan, independent auditors will be hired to evaluate and monitor the operations of all of Holland America's cruise ships and to report problems to the United States. After pleading guilty, Holland America will be placed on probation, and be under the further supervision of the United States Probation Office, for a term of three years.
The investigation into the incident began when a local Juneau citizen reported observing a suspicious discharge from a cruise ship on the evening in August 2002. The discharge was reported to the ship but the crew failed to properly respond, according to the plea agreement. When the discharge continued, investigators from both the Coast Guard and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation were contacted and quickly responded to begin an investigation into the cause of the discharge. Joined by agents from the EPA, a team of investigators and prosecutors worked together to conduct a comprehensive investigation into how the discharged occurred, why it continued, and how the crew responded.
Burgess said, "My office is committed to enforcing the environmental laws to insure the health and safety of the people Alaska and to preserve the pristine nature of our coastal environment."
Rear Admiral Olson stated, "The Coast Guard's marine safety mission can be best summarized as 'protecting people from the sea, and the sea from people.' We all need to continue working as a team to ensure Alaska's waters remain clean." His comments were supported by the EPA's Skinner, who said "We are committed to protecting Alaska's irreplaceable marine environment. We will not allow marine industries to foul our waters. In addition to paying a significant fine, HAL will be required to improve the wastewater systems on all its ships to help prevent future violations."
Holland America was scheduled to plead guilty in this case on Dec. 13 in federal court in Juneau. The Criminal Information, Plea Agreement and Compliance Plan are on file with the U.S. District Court, Alaska, Case No. J04-0005 (PMP).