September 29, 2003"Magic pipe" could mean jail
On September 25, 2003, VINCENT B. GENOVANA, an engineer on the marine vessel ("M/S") HOEGH MINERVA, pled guilty before United States Magistrate Judge Karen L. Strombom to a felony violation related to obstructing the United States Coast Guard's investigation of intentional dumping of waste oil into the ocean, according to an announcement from John McKay, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, Donald Sims, Special Agent in Charge of the Portland Area Office, Criminal Investigation Division of the EPA, Richard Gardner, Special Agent in Charge of the Coast Guard Investigative Service, and Captain Paul Jewell, Commanding Officer, Coast Guard Marine Safety Office Portland.
According to the plea agreement, GENOVANA instructed other crew members on board the M/S HOEGH MINERVA to construct a "magic pipe" that was subsequently used to bypass certain pollution prevention equipment and discharge oily waste directly into the ocean. GENOVANA took several steps to conceal evidence of the bypass activity and avoid detection by United States Coast Guard inspectors when inspectors came aboard the vessel at the Port of Vancouver, Washington on September 11, 2003. The steps included removing and hiding the bypass pipe, painting the pipe connections in the area where the "magic pipe" had been installed, and making false and fraudulent entries in the vessel's Oil Record Book.
GENOVANA is scheduled to be sentenced before United States District Judge Ronald B. Leighton in Tacoma on January 9, 2004. He faces a maximum statutory penalty of twenty (20) years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
GENOVANA's guilty plea, which was entered only two weeks after GENOVANA's misconduct was uncovered by government inspectors on September 11, 2003, is the latest in a series of prosecutions targeting both engine room crew members and marine vessel operating companies that engage in the illegal practice of bypassing required pollution prevention equipment. According to United States Attorney John McKay, these prosecutions underscore not only the pervasive pollution practices, but the focus of his office and the investigating agencies on discovering the practices and deterring further pollution.
This matter was investigated by members of the Columbia River Environmental Crimes Task Force, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Coast Guard Criminal Investigative Service, Coast Guard Marine Safety Office Portland, and the Washington State Department of Ecology, Spill Prevention, Preparedness and Response Program.
The investigation is ongoing regarding other parties who may be responsible for the activities to which Mr. Genovana pled guilty. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mark Chutkow, and Special Assistant United States Attorneys Larry Kennedy and James Oesterle.