Holland America Line Agrees to Guilty Plea for Illegal Discharge of Untreated Sewage

December 13, 2004

The EPA, in cooperation with the 17th United States Coast Guard District and the U.S. Attorney for the District of Alaska, recently announced that HAL Maritime Ltd (HAL) has agreed to plead guilty to federal criminal charges for the negligent discharge of 20,000 gallons of untreated sewage from a cruise ship into Juneau harbor in 2002.

Criminal charges were filed against HAL, an Operating Company of Holland America Line Cruise Ships, 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 discharging 20,000 gallons of untreated sewage from the cruise ship Ryndam while it was docked in Juneau in August 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 AmericaÆs fleet of cruise ships. As well, under the Compliance Plan, independent auditors will evaluate and monitor the operations of all of Holland America cruise ships, and will report problems it uncovers. 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 August 17, 2002. According to the plea agreement, the discharge was reported to the ship, but the crew failed to properly respond. 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.

EPA Updates Information on Sediments

EPA released 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.

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DOT Extends Pre-Transport Rule Effective Date

As many of you know, the DOT finalized a rule on October 30, 2003 at 68 FR 61905 affecting several aspects of loading, transportation, unloading, and what was defined as "pre-transport activities." This rule was to have an effective date of October 1, 2004.

On May 28, 2004, at 69 FR 30588, due to the overwhelming number of comments that were received by the DOT concerning the appropriateness of this rule, they extended the compliance date to January 1, 2005 to give the DOT more time to consider the comments and modify the rule as needed to address the points made by industry concerning the rule.

In discussion in our workshops, many people have commented that this rule was going to be pretty complicated to enforce, and predicted further delays, or even a withdrawal of the rule. Turns out, they were right. On Wednesday, December 8, 2004, at 69 FR 70902, the DOT again delayed the effective date of this rule, now to June 1, 2005.

Investigation Continues at Nuclear Metals Site in Concord, MA

The EPA has given approval for the consultant working on the Nuclear Metals Inc. site in Concord, MA, to begin work this week to excavate buried drums from an area of the site.

The drum excavation will take place in an area adjacent to the cooling water pond, located behind the former Starmet facility. The drum disposal area is being investigated as part of an extensive study, known as a remedial investigation, which has been underway at the site since October.

The study includes:

  • Locating and characterizing the contents of buried drums and metal debris in two areas at the site
  • Investigating and characterizing the make-up of site septic tanks and leach fields, storm drains, transformer areas and an underground storage tank area
  • Characterization and survey of site buildings and contents to evaluate remedial needs and estimate those costs
  • Investigating site soils, sediment, surface water, groundwater, wetlands and bog
  • Characterizing the content of residual soil contamination associated with the former holding basin
  • Describing site-related human health and ecological risks
  • Developing clean-up alternatives

Previous investigations found the drum disposal area contained about 60 buried drums. To more thoroughly characterize the contents of the drums and determine the extent of contamination in the soil surrounding them, the drums will be excavated. They will then be stockpiled on-site in secure containers. The contents of the drums will be sampled, with samples sent to a laboratory for analysis. Soil surrounding the drums will also be sampled. Once the contents of the drums have been confirmed, an evaluation of disposal options will be performed.

During this phase of the investigation, workers will initially be using "Level B" or "supplied air" and protective equipment, and the air around the work area as well at the perimeter of the property will be monitored to ensure contamination is not being released or migrating off-site. After the drums are excavated, the area will be sampled and backfilled; the excavation is expected to take less than two weeks. The larger investigation of the entire property will continue through spring 2005.

The drum disposal area is one of 17 areas being investigated by as part of an agreement reached between EPA and the responsible parties at Nuclear Metals in June 2003. According to the agreement, a study of the site will be completed and used to evaluate cleanup options. Specifically, the agreement calls for the responsible parties to pay for the remedial Investigations, the feasibility study and engineering evaluation, and the cost analyses. According to the agreement, these studies will cost about $8 million, and may be increased to a $10 million cap.

The site was active from 1958 to present, used by various operators as a specialized research and metal manufacturing facility licensed to possess low-level radioactive substances. Operators used depleted uranium, beryllium and other hazardous substances at the site. From 1958 to 1985, wastes contaminated with depleted uranium were disposed of in an unlined holding basin. EPA has also identified other areas on the site that were used to dispose of manufacturing wastes, building materials and laboratory equipment.

The current site owner/operator, Starmet (formerly Nuclear Metals, Inc.), manufactured depleted uranium munitions for the U.S. Army at the site from the 1970s until 1999. In 2003, EPA entered into an agreement with the U.S. Army, the U.S. Department of Energy, Whittaker Corp., MONY Life Insurance Co. and Textron Inc. to conduct extensive studies at the site to develop cleanup options.

The Nuclear Metals Inc. site was added to the National Priority List in June 2001, making it a Superfund site. The EPA list is made up of the country s most serious hazardous waste sites identified for possible long-term cleanup. Additional information may be found at www.nmisite.org or www.epa.gov/ne/superfund/sites/nmi.">www.epa.gov/ne/superfund/sites/nmi.

Company CEO Convicted for Environmental Crimes

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 shipÆs 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 EPAÆs Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service and the FBI. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. attorneyÆs office for the Southern District of Florida, the U.S. attorneyÆs office for the Northern District of Iowa and the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.

Kikkoman Foods Receives EPA Citation for Clean-Air Violations

EPA cited Kikkoman Foods Inc. for alleged clean-air violations at the company's Walworth, WI, food-processing plant. The agency alleges that Kikkoman built and operated a spray dryer without getting state construction and operating permits, and that the company is operating the equipment without controlling volatile organic compound emissions.

Volatile organic compounds contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, or smog. Smog is formed when a mixture of air pollutants is baked in the hot summer sun, and can cause a variety of respiratory problems, including coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest pain. People with asthma, children and the elderly are especially at risk, but these health concerns are important to everyone.

These are preliminary findings of violations. To resolve them, EPA may issue a compliance order, assess an administrative penalty or bring suit against the company. Kikkoman has 30 days from receipt of the notice to meet with EPA to discuss resolving the allegations.

EPA Coordinates with States on Clean Water Act Storm Water Compliance and Enforcement Actions

The EPA, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR), and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC), in cooperation with local officials, coordinated compliance and enforcement actions to address violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA). These violations are associated with the treatment and disposal of storm water at construction sites in the Charlotte, NC, metropolitan area, and have resulted in adverse impacts on water quality.

Inspections were performed in April 2004, at construction sites that exceeded one acre of disturbed land within the Charlotte metropolitan area. Each site was evaluated based upon compliance with either North CarolinaÆs Construction General Permit for Storm Water Point Source Discharges at Construction Sites, or with South CarolinaÆs General Permit for Storm Water Discharges from Construction Activities associated with industrial construction. Both permits are issued under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit Program. The EPA, NCDENR, SCDHEC, and local agencies evaluated the facilitiesÆ impact on the receiving streams, as well as their compliance with the federal and state storm water regulations.

The inspections resulted in the issuance of either an Administrative Order (AO) or a Notice of Violations (NOV) to some of the facilities. The AO requires the submission of either a permit application or a Notice of Intent (NOI) for coverage under the general permit or the installation and/or maintenance of Best Management Practices (BMPs) throughout the site. An NOV is a letter stating that EPA is aware of violations at the site and warns of formal enforcement if these violations are not corrected.

Illegal Disposal of Paint Waste Results in Large Fines

On Nov. 19, 2004, 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 EPAÆs Criminal Investigation Division, the Oklahoma Department of TransportationÆs Office of General Counsel, the Oklahoma Attorney GeneralÆs 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. attorneyÆs office in Little Rock, Ark.

Failure to Participate in Voluntary Audit Results in $60,000 Penalty

The city of Bangor, ME, recently agreed to pay a $59,586 penalty to resolve EPA claims that it violated hazardous waste and clean water laws at four of its facilities at the former Dow Air Force Base. Under the agreement, the city will pay $165,432 to convert its entire fleet of vehicles to clean-burning biodiesel fuel.

The violations were discovered after Bangor failed to participate in an environmental audit and self-disclosure initiative offered by EPA in 2001. Under the initiative, letters were sent to over 1000 towns in New England, alerting them of their responsibilities to comply with environmental laws and offering them assistance. Cities and towns were encouraged to conduct environmental compliance audits and disclose and correct violations. In return, EPA agreed to substantially reduce or eliminate potential penalties. The City of Bangor chose not participate in the program.

The settlement resolves claims by EPA that Bangor improperly stored, handled and disposed of hazardous wastes. The city also failed to train personnel or to have contingency plans at the city's Department of Public Works, motor pool, aviation fuel, or Bangor International Airport facilities, in violation of federal and state hazardous waste standards.

The agreement also resolves an EPA claim that Bangor discharged untreated wastewater from its motor pool into a stream that eventually flows to the Penobscot River, in violation of the federal Clean Water Act. The city did not have a permit to discharge from the facility. Bangor has come into compliance with hazardous waste laws and has disconnected the illicit discharge from the motor pool facility.

In addition to paying a $59,586 penalty, the city has agreed to convert its diesel fleet to biodiesel fuel, an alternative fuel made partially from soy beans. This will reduce emissions of hydrocarbons by 21 percent, of particulates by 5 to 10 percent, and of carbon monoxide by 11 percent. The project also has the added benefit of replacing non-renewable fossil fuels with a renewable agricultural-based fuel. The agreement may also help encourage a stronger market for the alternative fuel in central and northern Maine. The federal government's energy and environment policy has put a priority on converting diesel fleets to biodiesel.

The city plans to buy about 458,000 gallons of biodiesel over the life of the project, which will cost $165,432 more than current diesel. The city was able to offset its penalty by that amount in order to pursue this project.

Under the settlement, the city also agreed to investigate jet fuel contamination of groundwater at the aviation fuel farm and along a pipeline that runs to the airport, under direction from EPA. The city is working with Maine Department of Environmental Protection to address potential leaks in the city's jet fuel distribution system and to evaluate clean-up alternatives.

Three Companies Cited by EPA for Unlawfully Filling Virginia Wetlands

The EPA cited three companies for unlawfully filling protected wetlands located in Suffolk, VA.

According to EPAÆs complaint, J&J Clearing and Grading, Inc., Rountree Construction Company, Inc., and JSW Disposal Co. did not have a permit before filling in about 8-3/4 acres of wetlands in May and October 2001. These wetlands, which are headwaters of the Nansemond and James river systems, were filled with dirt, sand-blast grit and mulch to create a road through the J&J property.

Under the Clean Water Act, a U. S. Army Corps of Engineers permit is required before dredged or fill material may be discharged into wetlands. The permit requirement is designed to minimize the destruction of wetlands, which serve a number of critical environmental and economic functions, including flood control, water filtration, wildlife habitat, and recreation.

The agency is seeking a total penalty of $32,500 against the three companies. Any of the parties involved may request a hearing to contest the alleged violation and proposed penalty.