Former manager gets prison term for dumping dredge spoil from barges"

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September 6, 2010

Former manager gets prison term for dumping dredge spoil from barges

Mark Guinn, the former manager of a tug and barge company, was sentenced on August 27 to 21 months in prison and ordered to serve 200 hours of community service related to the environment for conspiring to violate the Clean Water Act and violating the Clean Water Act, according to Melinda Haag, United States Attorney for the Northern District of California.

After a five-day jury trial, Guinn was convicted on May 11, 2010, of conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act and one count of violating the Clean Water Act. The defendant was acquitted of one Clean Water Act count, and the jury did not reach a verdict on one other Clean Water Act count.

The jury trial occurred before U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston.

Evidence at trial showed that beginning at least as early as 2003 and continuing until 2007, Guinn, 42, of Longview, Wash., participated in the routine discharge of large amounts of contaminated and toxic dredged spoils into navigable waters of the United States without a permit.

Guinn unlawfully dumped such material into San Francisco Bay himself and conspired with other employees to do so, including ordering employees to do so. Guinn and other employees opened the hull of a barge while the barge was at or near Winter Island in Contra Costa County, Calif., and then emptied the contents of the barge directly into the surrounding waters instead of properly offloading the material on Winter Island.

Testimony revealed that the dumping of a barge would take minutes, while properly offloading the dredged spoils onto Winter Island would take 12-18 hours.

Some of the barges involved in the dumping could hold almost one million gallons of contaminated spoils.

The discharge of dredged material is regulated to protect water quality. The ultimate disposal location is determined in part by the level of contaminants in the dredged material and the sensitive nature of the receiving habitat. Here, all of the dredged spoils that were illegally dumped were toxic or contaminated and, thus, had to be isolated from marine life and could not go into the water.

"The defendant used public waterways as a dumping ground for toxic dredged material to save the time of disposing of it safely and legally on land," said Nick Torres, Special Agent in Charge of EPA's Office of Criminal Enforcement in San Francisco. "An almost two year sentence to federal prison sends a strong message to the defendant, as well as other managers, that if you cut corners and pollute, you risk significant prison time."

The company where Guinn worked, Brusco Tug & Barge Company, previously pled guilty to a felony Clean Water Act violation and was sentenced to a $1.5 million fine, including $250,000 directed to environmental projects in the Bay. The company is also required to enter into a comprehensive environmental compliance plan as a result of the actions of its employees, including Guinn.

Guinn was indicted by a federal grand jury on July 7, 2009. The federal grand jury subsequently returned a Superseding Indictment on Jan. 19, 2010. In addition to the 21 month prison sentence, Guinn was ordered to serve 200 hours of community service with a significant portion dedicated to protecting the environment. Guinn is currently out of custody on a secured bond and has been ordered to surrender himself on Oct. 22, 2010.

Stacey Geis is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who prosecuted the case, with the assistance of Christine Tian, Rayneisha Booth, and Elizabeth Garcia. The prosecution is the result of a lengthy investigation by the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service and the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Criminal Enforcement.


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