ACL fined $805,440 for clean water violations

The following is the text of a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Illinois:

(FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS, Ill.) — As part of a voluntary agreement, Indiana-based American Commercial Lines Inc. (ACL) and its wholly-owned subsidiary, ACBL Transportation Services LLC (ACBLTS), have paid the United States $805,440 in civil penalties to resolve Clean Water Act (CWA) violations, Acting United States Attorney James L. Porter announced.

"Clean water is a precious resource," Porter said. "When it is threatened in the Southern District of Illinois, this office will not stand idly by. We take seriously our responsibility to uphold and enforce federal environmental laws, and we will continue to vigorously prosecute these cases."

According to a federal complaint filed earlier this year in the Southern District of Illinois, over a span of nearly seven years — from June 2007 to February 2014 — ACL and ACBLTS repeatedly discharged sewage and polluted wastewater to the Ohio River from their barge-cleaning facility in Cairo, Ill., in violation of their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits. The wastewater exceeded permit limits for four separate pollutants: biochemical oxygen demand, total suspended solids, total residual chlorine and fecal coliform. The complaint states that the companies violated their allotted limits for daily maximum levels and/or monthly averages on at least 554 separate occasions.

Reports submitted by ACL and ACBLTS to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency show that in many instances, the violations were egregious. On 16 occasions, the amount of fecal coliform in ACL’s discharges measured at least 100 times higher than the permit limit. During another month, the concentration of total residual chlorine in the wastewater rose to more than 700 times the permit limit. Most of the polluted water that ACL and ACBLTS discharged to the Ohio River came from two office septic systems and a marine sanitation device. A barge-cleaning station also contributed to the CWA violations described in the complaint.

The objective of the Clean Water Act is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation’s waters. In reaching the settlement figure, the United States took into account the seriousness of the violations and the impact they had on the environment, as well as the corrective measures the companies eventually took to eliminate future violations and bring their Cairo facility into compliance. "This settlement illustrates the importance and value of protecting the Ohio River," said Robert A. Kaplan, Acting EPA Region 5 administrator. "U.S. EPA will take action whenever necessary to protect our freshwater resources."

This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Nathan D. Stump and Nicholas J. Biersbach, in concert with the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

By Professional Mariner Staff