Groups sue Millennium over alleged Clean Water Act violations

August 9, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Water Quality

Vancouver and Longview citizens groups announced Tuesday they will sue the owner of a proposed coal dock in West Longview, contending that Millennium Bulk Terminals is violating the federal Clean Water Act by handling coal without a permit.

An attorney representing the two groups said he will file a federal suit within 60 days to force Millennium to obtain permits for cleanup work at the former Reynolds metals aluminum plant on Industrial Way. The two groups are Longview-based Land Owners and Citizens for a Safe Community and Vancouver-based Rosemere Neighborhood Association.

“Millennium is not a cleanup company. They are a newly formed company that’s in the export business,” said Gayle Kiser, president of the Longview group, an nonprofit with about 80 members in Cowlitz County.

The conservation groups’ Portland attorney, Scott Jerger, alleges in the suit that Millennium has failed to obtain the proper permits for stormwater and wastewater disposal for the past 209 days while handling coal, petcoke and other materials on the site. Millennium has been working on a cleanup of the Columbia River site since the beginning of the year.

Millennium inherited a giant pile of petcoke — a waste byproduct of the oil refining process from the site’s former tenant, Chinook Ventures, and Millennium officials say they are trying do determine how to remove it. Millennium also is handling about 9,000 tons of coal per month, which it delivers to Weyerhaeuser Co. The conservation groups allege that stormwater running through these materials is causing water pollution.

The total fines for alleged violations would be about $7.8 million, Jerger argued.

The suit was a surprise for Millennium, said Kristin Gaines, the company’s environmental and health manager. She said Tuesday she needed to review the filing before commenting on specific allegations.

“At first glance, I honestly don’t think there’s a lot of merit to their accusations,” she said.

Millennium owns the buildings and equipment on the 416-acre site where it plans to build a export terminal, bringing in coal from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming and offloading it to ships bound for Asia, mostly China.

Millennium is jointly owned by Australian coal company Ambre Energy and St. Louis-based Arch Coal. The company bought the property for $10.9 million in January from Chinook Ventures.

The mile-long coal trains would likely come through Vancouver rail yards, which is why the Rosemere Neighborhood Association became involved in the suit, said Djiva Bertish, the group’s director of environment and conservation.

The land is owned by Alcoa, which is on the hook with state federal regulators to clean up the site from years of contamination from aluminum smelting by Reynolds. Alcoa plans to submit a cleanup timeline to the state Department of Ecology early next year.

Article source: http://tdn.com/news/local/article_ce213a80-c2e2-11e0-98b8-001cc4c002e0.html

4 companies fined $1 million for ship pollution

August 9, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Dumping

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A whistleblower’s complaint about a cargo ship dumping waste in the ocean led Thursday to a $1 million fine levied against four companies that own and operate a fleet of vessels that regularly call on New Orleans.

The conglomerate also was banned by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier from operating in the United States for up to five years.

In April, Stanships Inc. of the Marshall Islands, Stanships Inc. of New York, Standard Shipping Inc. and Calmore Maritime Ltd., pleaded guilty to 32 felony counts of violating ship safety and pollution standards, along with obstruction of justice.

A whistleblower aboard the M/V Americana — part of the conglomerate’s fleet — told the Coast Guard last November that the ship was dumping sludge and oily waste through the use of a pipe to bypass required pollution equipment. Prosecutors said the whistleblower provided cell phone pictures of the device being used at sea.

The ship’s owners also were accused of falsifying a record book to hide the illegal discharges.

An ensuing investigation also resulted in the owners being accused of violating safety standards for trying to conceal the failure of the ship’s generators. According to prosecutors, the ship arrived at the Southwest Pass — a major entry point to the Mississippi River — after losing power for several days at sea. A manager ordered the ship’s captain to falsely tell the Coast Guard that the ship had two operating generators. The master eventually ordered tugboats to guide the ship into port.

According to court records, Stanships Inc. of the Marshall Islands, was a repeat offender, committing new violations after it was fined $700,000 for illegal discharges and falsifying records with another ship on Sept. 29.

On April 27, U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan revoked the company’s probation and banned the company’s ships from further trade in the United States.

Barbier ordered $250,000 of the latest fine to go to projects benefiting fish resources.

Article source: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/4-companies-fined-1-million-apf-1974536903.html?x=0&.v=1