Sentenced for Crimes against the Environment


Striped bass protected against overfishing. Photo via Flickr: by J Bary

Seems the U.S. Justice Department is pulling out the handcuffs for pirates in our own waters and charging culprits with conspiracy. Over the last month, the Department of Justice has sentenced Maryland commercial fishermen to prison for overfishing, nabbed a Michigan wastewater treatment plant for illegal discharges, slammed a South Korean cargo ship with over $2 million in fines for falsifying marine pollution records, and sentenced a sewer pipe maker with "routine" violations of the Clean Water and Clean Air acts. The message to offenders: the eco-police are watching and waiting to prosecute. Maryland's U.S. District Court ordered Thomas L. Hallock to cough up $4,000 in restitution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for illegally harvesting striped bass a/k/a rockfish and sent him to prison for 12 months. Others involved await sentencing. Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, John C. Cruden let it be known on April 22 that it intends to keep rock fishing sustainable:

Today's prison sentence should serve as a warning to fishermen and wholesalers who may consider undercutting the market and risking the continuation of the striped bass population. You will be prosecuted and you face the possibility of serving time. Fishing limits in the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River are designed to protect the healthy sustainable population of striped bass and ensure a viable fishery up and down the eastern seaboard.

The Pirates of the Chesapeake Bay
Hallock pled guilty to falsely recording the amount of striped bass harvested from 2003 to 2007, under-reporting the weight with the assistance of a check-in station to the tune of 68,442 pounds. Golden Eye Seafood was also charged in the case. Undercover agents in the investigation also led to the prosecution of more fish wholesalers and a dozen others for violating the Lacey Act for overfishing.


Industrial and sewage waste in river. Photo: The Sierra Club
The Pirates of the River Rouge
The former CEO, general manager and plant managers from Comprehensive Environmental Solutions Inc., an industrial waste treatment and disposal facility in Dearborn, Mich., were convicted on nine counts, including violating the Clean Water Act for illegally discharging untreated waste (13 million gallons worth) into Detroit's sanitary sewage system. Various sentences up to 24 months in prison were handed out for bypassing the facility's required pretreatment system, concealing the lack of treatment and tampering with compliance samples.


Treatment plant photo via Flickr: by Shnib Snuff

For risking harm to the environment and lying about it, "in an effort to cut corners and make illegal profits," the DOJ handed the company a fine of $600,000, plus an additional $150,000 to fund the preservation and restoration of the ecosystem. The case was handled by the FBI and EPA Criminal Investigation Division.


Dumping oily sludge and garbage from cargo ship. Photo via Flickr: by Cernavoda
The Pirates of Tampa Bay
The chief engineer of the STX Ocean Jade, a Korean commercial cargo ship, pleaded guilty to charges of dumping oily sludge in violation of maritime pollution laws. He could face six years in federal prison, a $2 million fine, a $200,000 community service payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and must implement an environmental compliance plan.

In an investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard and EPA evidence showed that crew members were ordered to dispose of approximately 10 barrels of oily waste directly into the ocean with a plastic hose draped over the side of the vessel. Also officers presented false oil and garbage record books to investigators and made false statements.


Photo via Flickr: by Fotologic
EPA's longest trial in environmental crimes history
In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is in the game with a case that lasted seven months and all started in 2003. Atlantic States Cast Iron Pipe Co. of New Jersey got hit with a fine of $8 million and sentenced four managers to prison from six to 70 months for a conspiracy to pollute the air and Delaware River in violation of the federal Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, exposing its employees to dangerous conditions, impeding and obstructing federal regulatory and criminal investigations.

A jury found the company guilty on several counts for routinely violating the Clean Water Act by discharging petroleum-contaminated water and paint into storm drains, repeatedly violating the Clean Air Act by burning tires and hazardous waste paint, systematically altering accident scenes and concealing worker injuries from health/safety inspectors, lying to federal, state, and local investigators about violations, and maintaining a dangerous workplace that contributed to severe injuries, and the death of an employee at the plant.

Said Catherine McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance:

These sentences show that senior managers, as well as companies, will be prosecuted when they break the law. The managers had an obligation to run the facility safely and legally; instead, they committed environmental crimes that polluted the air and water and put people's health at risk.

This is the fourth offense for the parent company, McWane Industries of Alabama, makers of cast-iron water and sewer pipes.

More on the EPA:
EPA: What, Us Regulate Pollution?
It's Official: EPA Finds Greenhouse Gases Endanger Public Health
TreeHugger Talks to Lisa Jackson, EPA Chief on New EPA
Obama EPA May Regulate CO2 for the First Time Ever
Fewer EPA Cops on the Beat

Tags: Air Pollution | EPA | Fish | Pollution | Toxins | Waste

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