The Algoma Central Corporation (Algoma), headquartered in St. Catharines, Ontario, was fined $500,000 after pleading guilty to dumping wastewater into Lake Ontario.
Algoma operated a fleet of dry and liquid bulk carriers on the Great Lakes. One of the vessels in the defendant’s fleet was the M/V Algoma Strongfield (Strongfield). Built in China, the Strongfield was delivered to Canada on May 30, 2017, by a crew from Redwise Maritime Services, B.V. (Redwise), a vessel transport company based in the Netherlands.
“The Great Lakes are our nation’s largest source of fresh water, and this prosecution shows the Administration’s commitment to preserving a natural resource that will be crucial for generations to come,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jean E. Williams of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD).
“The very purpose of the Clean Water Act is to protect our natural resources, including one of our nation’s greatest natural treasures, the Great Lakes, from harm,” said U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy for the Western District of New York. “This conviction and the fine imposed sends a strong message that those who violate the Clean Water Act will be held accountable for their actions. This penalty also ensures that this defendant will be monitored in the future and will be strictly obligated to comply with those environmental laws and regulations that protect our waters, our fisheries, our wildlife, and each of us.”
During the Strongfield’s delivery voyage, while manned by a Redwise crew, the oily water separator and oil content monitor malfunctioned or failed on multiple occasions, which resulted in an accumulation of unprocessed oily bilge water. On May 5, 2017, an Algoma employee directed Redwise to transfer and store the unprocessed oily bilge water in the Strongfield’s used wash water tank to avoid an overboard discharge of unprocessed bilge water into the Pacific Ocean. The wash water tank was intended to store deck and cargo hold wash water and is not listed on the Strongfield’s International Oil Pollution Prevention certificate. Between May 5, 2017, and the Strongfield’s arrival in Canada, the Redwise crew made several additional transfers of unprocessed oily bilge waste into the wash water tank to avoid overboard discharges of untreated bilge water.
On May 19, 2017, as the Strongfield was transiting the Panama Canal, an Algoma employee boarded the vessel and remained onboard until the vessel’s arrival in Canada, where he assumed the duties of Chief Engineer. On May 30, 2017, the Strongfield arrived in Sept-Iles, Quebec, Canada, where the Redwise crew handed over operation of the vessel to an Algoma crew. Although some of the Algoma crew were advised that the wash water tank contained unprocessed oily bilge water, Algoma acted negligently in failing to inform all onboarding Algoma crewmembers and the inspectors of the contents of the wash water tank.
On June 6, 2017, the Stongfield was transiting Lake Ontario. While in the waters of the United States within the Western District of New York, the 3rd officer on board the Strongfield requested permission to empty the contents of the wash water tank into Lake Ontario, and the captain approved the discharge. Because Algoma had negligently failed to inform the 3rd officer and the captain what the wash water tank contained, approximately 11,887 gallons of unprocessed oily bilge water were released into Lake Ontario. The discharge was stopped when another Algoma employee learned of the discharge and informed the 3rd officer and captain that the wash water tank contained unprocessed oily bilge water and instructed them to stop the discharge immediately. After the incident, Algoma contacted Canadian and U.S. authorities to report the discharge.
In addition to the fine, Algoma was put on probation for a period of three years during which it must implement an environmental compliance plan.
The sentencing is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, under the direction of Resident Agent in Charge Cindy C. Buckley, Buffalo, New York, and Resident Agent in Charge Edward L. Songer, Detroit, Michigan.
Trial Attorney Patrick M. Duggan of ENRD’s Environmental Crimes Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron J. Mango of the Western District of New York are prosecuting the case.