Environmental

Whistleblower receives $250,000 in maritime pollution case after exposing illegal wastewater dumping

whistleblower 4 370x210 Whistleblower receives $250,000 in maritime pollution case after exposing illegal wastewater dumpingA whistleblower whose tips exposed illegal wastewater dumping from a Japanese car carrier ship near Chesapeake Bay will receive $250,000 as his share of a $1.8 million fine.

Hachiuma Steamship Co., a subsidiary of NYK Line, pleaded guilty in a federal court in Baltimore Friday to violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from ships, which requires oily wastewater to be cleaned in an oil separator before it is dumped into the sea.

In addition to the pollution fine, U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake put the shipping company on probation for three years and ordered it to develop and implement a comprehensive environmental compliance program that will be certified by external auditors.

Chief engineer of the Selene Leader, Noly Torato Vidad, 47, and First Engineer Ireneo Tomo Tuale, 63, both of the Philippines, previously pleaded guilty to the illegal dumping and are awaiting sentencing.

According to court documents, crew members in the engine room were ordered to use rubber hoses to transfer the wastewater between oil tanks aboard the ship. They then used a device called a “magic pipe” to bypass the pollution control equipment and release the oily water into the ocean.

The whistleblower was a crew member aboard the ship who witnessed the unlawful activities and documented them.

The Selene Leader arrived in Baltimore on Jan. 29, 2014, without documentation of the wastewater dumping. Aided by a whistleblower’s tips, including videos that documented the illegal wastewater dumping, U.S. Coast Guard officials boarded the ship for inspection the next day. Their investigation found that Mr. Vidad had tried to conceal the illegal dumping by falsifying the oil record book and destroying documents. Mr. Vidad also lied to Coast Guard investigators and ordered crew members to lie to them as well.

Hachiuma Steamship paid the $1.8 million penalty at sentencing. Of that money, $250,000 went to the whistleblower as a reward for exposing the misconduct and $450,000 went to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to fund environmental projects for Chesapeake Bay. The remainder goes to a federal fund used to bankroll maritime pollution cleanup efforts.

Sources:

Office of United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein
Law 360