From: By Paul Schaefer, ENN
Published August 9, 2007 01:29 PM

U.S. Coast Guard Officer Indicted Over Hawaii Pollution Dumping Incident

Aug 8, 2007 20:16


HONOLULU, HI. -- A Coast Guard Officer was indicted today by a federal grand jury for obstructing the investigation into his authorization of discharge of 2000 gallons of bilge wastes into the Honolulu Harbor.


The accused, David G. Williams, a Chief Warrant Officer in the U.S. Coast Guard was the Main Propulsion Assistant for the Coast Guard Cutter RUSH.


Williams was charged with two counts: one count of obstruction of justice and one count of making a false statement. Williams oversaw the maintenance of the main diesel engines and other machinery in the engine room for the Coast Guard Cutter RUSH, a 378 foot long high-endurance cutter stationed in Honolulu.


"This indictment stands as notice that the Department of Justice will enforce the nation's environmental laws in an even-handed and thorough manner," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tenpas.


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According to the indictment, on or about March 8, 2006, Williams authorized the direct discharge of bilge wastes into Honolulu Harbor. The Engineering Department personnel engaged in an unusual and abnormal operation and configuration of engine room equipment to pump bilge wastes from the aft bilge overboard into Honolulu Harbor, thereby bypassing an "oily water separator" system. The system is a pollution prevention control device used by high endurance Coast Guard cutters like the RUSH to manage accumulations of bilge wastes while underway at sea. The system collects, stores, and processes wastes to separate the water from the oil and other wastes.


On or about March 13, 2006, the State of Hawaii Department of Health received an anonymous complaint stating that U.S. Coast Guard Cutter RUSH crew members were ordered to pump approximately 2,000 gallons of bilge waste into Honolulu Harbor. On May 1, 2006, investigators from the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) received confirmation from Main Propulsion Division personnel who personally participated that bilge wastes had indeed been discharged through the deep sink and into Honolulu Harbor. CGIS investigators obtained various documents from the RUSH, including engineering and ship's logs, tank level sounding sheets, and a pneumatic pump.


According to the indictment, when interviewed by investigators from the CGIS and EPA, Williams denied authorizing personnel to discharge bilge waste to the deep sink and stated that he was not aware of the pumping of bilge wastes to bypass the ship's OWS system.


The charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. If convicted Williams could face 5 years in prison on each count.


For more information: http://www.usdoj.gov/


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