The Environmental and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice reports that St. Catharines, Ontario, headquartered Algoma Central Corporation has been fined $500,000 after pleading guilty to dumping wastewater into Lake Ontario.
The fine is for a violation of the Clean Water Act that occurred following the 2017 delivery voyage of the Equinox Class bulker Algoma Strongfield from a shipyard in China.
According to the Department of Justice, the Strongfield was delivered to Canada on May 30, 2017, by a crew from Netherlands-based Redwise Maritime Services, B.V.
During the Strongfield’s delivery voyage, while manned by a Redwise crew, the oily water separator and oil content monitor malfunctioned or failed on multiple occasions, which resulted in an accumulation of unprocessed oily bilge water.
On May 5, 2017, says the Department of Justice, an Algoma employee directed Redwise to transfer and store the unprocessed oily bilge water in the Strongfield’s used wash water tank to avoid an overboard discharge of unprocessed bilge water into the Pacific Ocean.
The wash water tank was intended to store deck and cargo hold wash water and was not listed on the Strongfield’s International Oil Pollution Prevention certificate. Between May 5, 2017, and the Strongfield’s arrival in Canada, the Redwise crew made several additional transfers of unprocessed oily bilge waste into the wash water tank to avoid overboard discharges of untreated bilge water.
On May 19, 2017, as the Strongfield was transiting the Panama Canal, an Algoma employee boarded the vessel and remained onboard until the vessel’s arrival in Canada, where he assumed the duties of chief engineer. On May 30, 2017, the Strongfield arrived in Sept-Iles, Quebec, Canada, where the Redwise crew handed over operation of the vessel to an Algoma crew.
Although some of the Algoma crew were advised that the wash water tank contained unprocessed oily bilge water, the Justice Department says that Algoma acted negligently in failing to inform all onboarding Algoma crewmembers and the inspectors of the contents of the wash water tank.
On June 6, 2017, the Strongfield was transiting Lake Ontario. While in the waters of the United States within the Western District of New York, the third officer on board the Strongfield requested permission to empty the contents of the wash water tank into Lake Ontario, and the captain approved the discharge.
“Because Algoma had negligently failed to inform the third officer and the captain what the wash water tank contained, approximately 11,887 gallons of unprocessed oily bilge water were released into Lake Ontario,” says the Department of Justice. “The discharge was stopped when another Algoma employee learned of the discharge and informed the third officer and captain that the wash water tank contained unprocessed oily bilge water and instructed them to stop the discharge immediately. After the incident, Algoma contacted Canadian and U.S. authorities to report the discharge.”
In addition to the fine, Algoma was put on probation for a period of three years during which it must implement an environmental compliance plan.