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October 21, 2010

Crew member pleads guilty in R/V Gould pollution case

Michael Murphy, age 56, from Phoenix, Arizona, yesterday pled guilty in federal court in New Orleans before U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance to making false statements to the U. S. Coast Guard, according to U. S. Attorney Jim Letten and the U.S. Department of Justice.

According to the factual basis, Murphy admitted he was the chief engineer on the R/V Laurence M. (L.M.) Gould ("R/V Gould"), a 2,966 gross ton American-flagged vessel that served as an icebreaking research vessel working under contract for the National Science Foundation ("NSF"). The R/V Gould generated quantities of waste oil due to leaks and drips from the engines' lubrication and fuel systems and/or the normal operation of vessel machinery. This waste oil combined with water, detergents, solvents, and other wastes that accumulated in the bottom or the "bilges" of the vessel formed oily wastewater.

As chief engineer, one of his duties was to ensure the vessel's Oil Record Book was accurate when presented to U.S. Coast Guard.

Murphy admitted, while on the high seas from July, 2004 through September, 2005, in an effort to keep the bilge tank from filling to capacity, he routinely ordered crew members to discharge oily wastewater overboard. He also admitted that he was aware that the Oily Water Separator was not working properly, and had not been maintained or repaired. On September 27, 2005, Murphy presented the Oil Record Book knowing the book contained false entries, to U. S. Coast Guard personnel conducting an inspection.

Murphy faces a possible maximum sentence of five years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and three years supervised release. He is scheduled to be sentenced on January 12, 2010.

This case was investigated by the U. S. Coast Guard Criminal Investigative Services and was prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Dan Dooher with the Environmental Crimes Section, Department of Justice, and Assistant United States Attorney Dorothy Manning Taylor.

In a related case, the owner of the R/V Gould, Offshore Service Vessel, Inc., of Galliano, La., pled guilty on July 29, 2010 before Judge Eldon Fallon, to discharging oily wastewater from the bilge tank of the R/V Gould overboard on the high seas, and agreed to pay a fine of $1,750,000 and a community service payment of $350,000. OSV is scheduled to be sentenced on November 4, 2010.

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