U.S. Coast Guard officer charged in pollution incident
Stories about oil water discharges often feature U.S. Coast Guard inspectors finding “magic pipes” onboard commercial vessels for discharging bilge water, or discovering improperly maintained record books.
This week, however, a federal grand jury pointed its finger at one of the Coast Guard’s own.
David G. Williams, a Coast Guard chief warrant officer and the main propulsion assistant for the Coast Guard cutter Rush, was indicted for obstructing the investigation into his authorization of the direct overboard discharge of bilge wastes into the Honolulu harbor.
The Hawaii attorney general’s office announcement said Williams was charged with one count of obstruction of justice and one count of making a false statement.
“This indictment stands as notice that the Department of Justice will enforce the nation’s environmental laws in an even-handed and thorough manner,” said Ronald J. Tenpas, an acting assistant attorney general in Hawaii.
The indictment charges that in 2006, Williams authorized the direct discharge of bilge wastes into Honolulu harbor, when 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.”
According to the indictment, when interviewed by the Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency, Williams denied authorizing personnel to discharge bilge waste to the deep sink and stated that he was not aware of the pumping of bilge wastes to bypass the ship’s oil water separator.
If convicted Williams could face five years in prison on each count.