$414,000 civil penalties in fishing vessel pollution case

Complaint says Challenge sank after defendant Charles Quinn III failed to turn off bilge after discharging untreated oily mixtures into New Bedford Harbor. Complaint says Challenge sank after defendant Charles Quinn III failed to turn off bilge after discharging untreated oily mixtures into New Bedford Harbor. USCG photograph

MAY 7, 2018 — An August 17, 2017 incident in which the 63 ft U.S. flagged fishing vessel Challenge sank in New Bedford harbor causing a major fuel spill today had its sequel in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts,

According to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Coast Guard, Challenge Fisheries LLC, Quinn Fisheries Inc., Charles Quinn Jr. and Charles Quinn III haveagreed to pay a total of $414,000 in civil penalties and to perform fleet-wide improvements and other compliance assurance measures to resolve federal Clean Water Act claims stemming from oily bilge discharges from Challenge, and a related fuel oil discharge in August 2017

In its complaint filed today, along with the lodging of a consent decree in the U.S. District Court, the United States alleges that the companies and individuals are liable for violations of the Clean Water Act related to the Challenge's operations in New Bedford Harbor and in coastal waters off of southeastern New England.

According to the complaint, Challenge Fisheries LLC is a Massachusetts limited liability company with its business address in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The company owns the U.S.-flagged Challenge, a commercial fishing vessel of approximately 43 gross tons homeported in New Bedford and used to catch sea scallops. Defendant Quinn Fisheries Inc. is a managing member of Challenge Fisheries LLC and an operator of the Challenge.

Defendant Charles Quinn Jr. is a managing member of Challenge Fisheries LLC and the president of Quinn Fisheries Inc. He controls and directs the operations of both companies. He also operates and is a person in charge of the Challenge and is the responsible corporate officer for the CWA violations alleged in the complaint. He resides in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Defendant Charles Quinn III has acted as the "captain" of the Challenge and as an operator and person in charge of the vessel for multiple fishing voyages over the past two years.He resides in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

The complaint addresses discharges of oily bilge waste from the vessel while in port and at sea harvesting scallops, and the release of approximately 100 barrels (4,200 gallons) of fuel oil in connection with the illegal overboard pumping of oily bilge water in August 2017. The complaint also includes a Clean Water Act claim for violations of the Coast Guard's spill prevention and pollution control regulation related to the failure to provide sufficient capacity to retain all oily bilge water onboard the vessel.

THE SINKING

According to the complaint the Challenge does not have an oil-water separating system on board, and lacks the capacity to store the quantity of oily mixtures generated on its typical fishing voyages.

Fuel oil and lube oil routinely leaked from machinery into the Challenge's engine room bilge.

Rather than properly treat or store the engine room's oily bilge waste onboard the Challenge, defendants routinely, on a daily or near-daily basis, pumped oily mixtures out of the engine room bilge into New Bedford Harbor while in port and into other waters of the United States during fishing voyages. This had been the typical oily waste disposal practice for the Challenge and was so during and after the fishing voyage that occurred between August 2 and August 13, 2017.

Defendants also discharged diesel fuel into New Bedford Harbor on the night of August 15, 2017, after returning from the fishing voyage that occurred between August 2 and August 13, 2017, says the complaint,

Defendants refueled the vessel on the morning of August 15, 2017, while at the docks located at 14 Hervey Tichon Avenue. When completed, the fuel tanks contained approximately 6,800 gallons of fuel. After refueling and while stilled moored at the docks, defendant Charles Quinn III, acting as captain of the vessel, turned on the engine room bilge pump and discharged untreated oily mixtures into New Bedford Harbor.

He turned off the generator when he left for the day but failed to turn off the bilge pumps or shut the engine room bilge valve. Shutting down the generator also turned off the bilge pump. The bilge priming line valve, however, was left open and the engine room bilge suction line was left open.

During the night of August 15 or the early morning of August 16, 2017, the bilge check valve failed, water flowed into the engine room and fish hold, and the vessel sank.

As the vessel sank, the fuel tank vents were submerged below the water and diesel fuel discharged into the harbor. More than 100 barrels (4,200 gallons) of diesel fuel discharged from the vessel into the harbor.

Diesel fuel flowed out of the vessel and contaminated multiple areas of New
Bedford Harbor and the Achushnet River, including the shoreline of neighboring Fairhaven. At least 17 ducks were observed oiled, at least five of which died.
31. The full extent of injuries to people and the environment from the oil spill has not yet been quantified, says the complaint ..

The complaint further alleges these illegal discharges were the result of willful misconduct and were done to extend the duration of the fishing voyages. The United States seeks civil penalties and injunctive relief to deter future violations by the defendants and others in the industry.

FLEET WIDE CORRECTIVE MEASURES

In addition to payment of the civil penalties, the consent decree requires corrective measures across the defendants' fleet of five New Bedford-based fishing vessels. The defendants will be required, among other things, to repair the vessels to reduce the generation of oily bilge water, operate within the vessels' capacity to retain oily bilge for the full length of planned voyages, provide crew and management training on the proper handling of oily wastes, document all oil and oily waste transfers on and off of the vessels, including documenting proper disposal of engine room bilge water at a shore reception facility, and submit compliance reports to the government.

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The penalty paid for these discharges and the related pollution prevention violations will be deposited in the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund managed by the National Pollution Funds Center. The Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund is used to pay for federal response activities and to compensate for damages when there is a discharge or substantial threat of discharge of oil or hazardous substances to waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines.

The proposed consent decree, lodged in the District of Massachusetts, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court review and approval.

Read the complaint HERE and the proposed consent decree HERE



 

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