Feds charge Va. marine company with dumping polluted ballast

The following is the text of a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia:
(NEWPORT NEWS, Va.) — Jerry R. Askew, Sr., 47, of Portsmouth, Va., and his company were indicted by a federal grand jury for dumping more than 500,000 gallons of polluted water into the Elizabeth River. Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, made the announcement after the indictment was made public.
Askew was the general manager of Marine Environmental Services (MES), Inc., a tank cleaning company based in Portsmouth, Va., that cleaned marine vessels before they were dismantled and disposed. On Oct. 13, 2010, Askew and MES were charged in a five-count indictment of knowingly discharging a pollutant in violation of the Clean Water Act, knowingly introducing pollutant in violation of the Clean Water Act, making false statements, and violating the Refuse Act. He faces a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000 if convicted on all counts.
“Mr. Askew’s company was hired to properly dispose of polluted water, and instead they’re accused of dumping it into a river near Chesapeake,†said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “We’re committed to enforcing our environmental laws that help ensure the health and safety of the waters in Tidewater.â€
According to the indictment, in October 2005, Askew and his company were hired to clean the tanks of a decommissioned Navy ship, the USS Pawcatuck, which was decommissioned in 1991 and sat anchored at Fort Eustis for 14 years. The ship was moved to a dismantling facility in Chesapeake, Va., adjacent to the Elizabeth River. The cleaning process included removing 2.1 million gallons of ballast “water,†which contained various pollutants including oil, grease, heavy metals, bacteria and other materials.
The indictment alleges that Askew ordered MES employees to pump approximately 500,000 gallons of this polluted waste water overboard into the Elizabeth River. The remainder of the water was allegedly sent to a treatment plant or improperly disposed of in the sewer system. When confronted, the indictment accuses Askew of lying to federal agents about receiving permission from the Coast Guard to make the discharges.
This case was investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the Department of Transportation. Assistant United States Attorney Brian J. Samuels and Special Assistant United States Attorney David Lastra from the Environmental Protection Agency are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.
Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/vae. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.vaed.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.uspci.uscourts.gov.
By Professional Mariner Staff