An Ontario-based shipping company in St. Catharines — one of the largest dry and liquid bulk carriers operating on the Great Lakes — has been fined $500,000 by the U.S. Department of Justice for a vessel malfunction and failed internal communication that led to the dumping of wastewater into Lake Ontario.
The fine is the result of violating the U.S. Clean Water Act on May 5, 2017, which the Algoma Central Corporation pleaded guilty to, according to a statement from the Deptartment of Justice.
While transporting a new vessel, named the Strongfield, to Canada, its oily water separator and oil content monitor malfunctioned or failed on multiple occasions, “which resulted in an accumulation of unprocessed oily bilge water,” a statement of the events described. An Algoma employee directed the vessel transport company’s crew to transfer and store the more than 45,000 litres of unprocessed oily bilge water in the vessel’s used wash water tank “to avoid an overboard discharge of unprocessed bilge water into the Pacific Ocean.”
When the vessel reached Quebec for transfer to the Algoma crew, Algoma allegedly acted negligently by failing to inform all onboarding Algoma crew members and the inspectors of the contents of the wash water tank.
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Later, on June 6, 2017, while in the waters of the U.S. within the Western District of New York, the 3rd officer on board requested permission to empty the contents of the wash water tank into Lake Ontario, and the captain approved the discharge. However, Algoma had allegedly failed to inform the 3rd officer and the captain about what the wash water tank contained.
The discharge was stopped when another Algoma employee learned of it and informed the appropriate crew members about the wash water tank’s contents. After the incident, Algoma contacted Canadian and U.S. authorities to report the discharge.
“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,” announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Jean E. Williams of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
In addition to the fine, Algoma was put on probation for a period of three years. Company officials must also implement an environmental compliance plan.