Photo: Algoma Innovator/Illustration; Image credit Algoma Central

Algoma fined for dumping wastewater

Canadian shipping company Algoma Central Corporation was fined $500,000 after pleading guilty to dumping wastewater into Lake Ontario.

The U.S. Department of Justice said that one of the vessels in the company’s fleet, the M/V Algoma Strongfield, was involved in the discharge of unprocessed oily bilge waste from the ship’s wash water tanks in the U.S. waters.

Built in China, the Strongfield was delivered to Canada on May 30, 2017, by a crew from Redwise Maritime Services, a vessel transport company based in the Netherlands.

During the Strongfield’s delivery voyage, while manned by a Redwise crew, the oily water separator and oil content monitor malfunctioned or failed on multiple occasions, which resulted in an accumulation of unprocessed oily bilge water.

On May 5, 2017, an Algoma employee directed Redwise to transfer and store the unprocessed oily bilge water in the Strongfield’s used wash water tank to avoid an overboard discharge of unprocessed bilge water into the Pacific Ocean.

The wash water tank was intended to store deck and cargo hold wash water and is not listed on the Strongfield’s International Oil Pollution Prevention certificate.

Prior to the ship’s arrival in Canada, the Redwise crew made several additional transfers of unprocessed oily bilge waste into the wash water tank.

On May 19, 2017, as the Strongfield was transiting the Panama Canal, an Algoma employee boarded the vessel and remained onboard until the vessel’s arrival in Canada, where he assumed the duties of Chief Engineer.

On May 30, 2017, the Strongfield arrived in Sept-Iles, Quebec, Canada, where the Redwise crew handed over operation of the vessel to an Algoma crew.

“Although some of the Algoma crew were advised that the wash water tank contained unprocessed oily bilge water, Algoma acted negligently in failing to inform all onboarding Algoma crewmembers and the inspectors of the contents of the wash water tank,” the DOJ said.

On June 6, 2017, the Stongfield was transiting Lake Ontario. While within the Western District of New York, the 3rd officer on board the Strongfield requested permission to empty the contents of the wash water tank into Lake Ontario, and the captain approved the discharge.

“Because Algoma had negligently failed to inform the 3rd officer and the captain what the wash water tank contained, approximately 11,887 gallons of unprocessed oily bilge water were released into Lake Ontario,” the DOJ added.

The discharge was stopped when another Algoma employee learned of the discharge and informed the 3rd officer and captain that the wash water tank contained unprocessed oily bilge water and instructed them to stop the discharge immediately.

After the incident, Algoma contacted Canadian and U.S. authorities to report the discharge. 

“The Great Lakes are our nation’s largest source of fresh water, and this prosecution shows the Administration’s commitment to preserving a natural resource that will be crucial for generations to come,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jean E. Williams of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD).

In addition to the fine, Algoma was put on probation for a period of three years during which it must implement an environmental compliance plan.