Coast Guard officer pleads guilty in cutter pollution case

The following is the text of a press release issued by the U.S. Justice Department:
(WASHINGTON) — David G. Williams, a Chief
Warrant Officer in the U.S. Coast Guard and the Main Propulsion Assistant
for the Coast Guard Cutter RUSH, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District
Court in Hawaii to one count of making a false statement, announced Ronald
J. Tenpas, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s
Environment & Natural Resources Division and U.S. Attorney for the District
of Hawaii Edward H. Kubo Jr.

    Williams was indicted by a federal grand jury on Aug. 8, 2007, for
lying to investigators about his knowledge of the direct overboard
discharge of bilge wastes through the ship’s deep sink into the Honolulu
Harbor. As the Main Propulsion Assistant, he oversaw the maintenance of the
main diesel engines and other machinery in the engine room for the Coast
Guard Cutter RUSH, a 378 ft. high endurance cutter stationed in Honolulu.

    “Today’s guilty plea stands as notice that the Department of Justice
will enforce the nation’s environmental laws in an even-handed and thorough
manner,” said Assistant Attorney General Tenpas.

    According to the plea agreement, on or about March 8, 2006, Williams
had knowledge of the direct discharge of bilge wastes into Honolulu Harbor.
The Engineering Department personnel engaged in an unusual and abnormal
operation and configuration of engine room equipment to pump bilge wastes
from the aft bilge to the deep sink and overboard into Honolulu Harbor,
thereby bypassing the “oily water separator” (OWS) system. The OWS system
is a pollution prevention control device used by high endurance Coast Guard
cutters like the RUSH to manage accumulations of bilge wastes while
underway at sea. The OWS system collects, stores and processes wastes to
separate the water from the oil and other wastes.

    On or about March 13, 2006, the State of Hawaii Department of Health
received an anonymous complaint stating that U.S. Coast Guard Cutter RUSH
crew members were ordered to pump approximately 2,000 gallons of bilge
waste into Honolulu Harbor. On May 1, 2006, investigators from the U.S.
Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) received confirmation from Main
Propulsion Division personnel who personally participated that bilge wastes
had indeed been discharged through the deep sink and into Honolulu Harbor.
CGIS investigators obtained various documents from the RUSH, including
engineering and ship’s logs, tank level sounding sheets, and a pneumatic

    When interviewed by investigators from the CGIS, Williams denied
knowledge of personnel discharging bilge waste to the deep sink and stated
that he was not aware of the pumping of bilge wastes to bypass the ship’s
OWS system.

    Sentencing has been set for Aug. 19, 2008. Williams faces a statutory
maximum of 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, plus a term of
supervised release of up to 3 years.

    The government’s investigation was initiated by the CGIS. The case is
being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Joseph A. Poux of the Justice
Department’s Environmental Crimes Section; Ronald G. Johnson, chief of the
Major Crimes Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney William L. Shipley, both
of the District of Hawaii; and Commander Timothy P. Connors of the Coast

By Professional Mariner Staff