Fairhaven Shipyard to pay $175,000 penalty for Clean Water Act violations

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fairhaven 32 water stJULY 3, 2012 — U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz and Curt Spalding, Regional Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency’s New England Region, said yesterday that Fairhaven, Mass., based Fairhaven Shipyard Companies, Inc. has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $175,000 to resolve violations of the federal Clean Water Act which occurred at two of its facilities in Fairhaven. It has also agreed to undertake measures to achieve compliance with the Act and applicable regulations.

According to an EPA press release, the amount of the civil penalty is based in part on Fairhaven Shipyard’s inability to pay a more substantial penalty.

The settlement is contained in a consent decree that was filed in federal district court this week, along with a civil complaint, filed on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

According to the complaint, Fairhaven Shipyard discharged untreated waste water generated from pressure washing vessel hulls to New Bedford Harbor, without the required National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit between December 2005 and July 2010. As a result, the Coast Guard in 2008 was called to investigate reports of large areas of red-stained water in New Bedford Harbor, which was caused by the discharge of wash washer containing high levels of paint residues.

In addition, from December 2005 to January 2009, during rain events, Fairhaven Shipyard allowed storm water that had come into contact with pollutants from industrial activities to flow to New Bedford Harbor, without obtaining or complying with the terms of a federal storm water permit.

After it obtained permit coverage for the storm water discharges in January 2009, says the complaint, Fairhaven Shipyard failed to perform certain required sampling and failed to control its storm water discharges as needed to minimize discharge of pollutants and to ensure that applicable water quality standards were met in New Bedford Harbor. Finally, Fairhaven Shipyard did not prepare and implement Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure Plans at its two Fairhaven facilities, located at 50 Fort Street and 32 Water Street, until 2009.

U.S. Attorney Ortiz said, “the public expects and deserves strong enforcement of the Clean Water Act to safeguard our natural resources and to help protect our nation’s waters. The first step, as in this instance, is holding polluters accountable for their storm runoff and waste water from their operations.”

“Failing to control the discharge of pollutants in washwater and stormwater is a serious violation of the Clean Water Act that can have significant harmful impacts to the environment, and EPA takes these clean water violations very seriously,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office.

Pressure wash water from vessel cleaning contains paint residues, including copper, lead and zinc from anti-fouling paint, oil and grease, and detergents. Without adequate on-site controls, stormwater runoff from shipyards can flow directly to waterways and contribute to water quality impairments such as wildlife habitat degradation, fishing restrictions and beach closings.

EPA issued an order requiring the company to come into compliance with NPDES requirements in March 2009. After receiving the order from EPA, Fairhaven Shipyard constructed systems to collect its pressure wash water at both facilities. The shipyard began sending the pressure wash water from its Fort Street facility to the Town of Fairhaven’s wastewater treatment facility for treatment starting in September 2009, and from the Water Street facility in September 2010.

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