U.S. Coast Guard Officer Pleads Guilty for Lying about Vessel Pollution
WASHINGTON, DC (May 1st 2008): 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 pump.
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 Guard. (08-370)
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