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Varlack Ventures Pleads Guilty To Criminal Violations Of Clean Water Act

Release Date: 12/04/1998
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(#98164) St. Croix, USVI -- James A. Hurd, Jr., United States Attorney for the Virgin Islands, and Lois J. Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the United States Department of Justice, announced that Varlack Ventures, Inc., pleaded guilty to the negligent discharge of oil into Red Hook Harbor, St. Thomas, and the failure to notify immediately the National Response Center of the discharge of oil. The violations occurred on March 26, 1995, during the operation of the M/V Venture Pride on the regular ferry run.

The guilty plea by Varlack Ventures, Inc. was part of a plea agreement between the company and the Department of Justice. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Varlack Ventures, Inc. will pay a fine of $50,000 and be placed on probation for a period of five years. As a condition of its probation, Varlack Ventures, Inc. is required to expend $300,000 above and beyond its normal maintenance costs to upgrade and maintain its marine vessels. The company is required to institute an environmental training program for its officers and employees and modernize its oil handling and waste oil disposal systems. The company is also required to publish a full page apology to the community in the local newspapers.

"Valrack Ventures showed an appalling disregard for the environment by pumping oil from its bilge directly into the waters of the Virgin Islands," said Jeanne M. Fox, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Region 2 Administrator. "Instead of attempting to fix the problem or report the oil discharge to the Coast Guard, as they are required to do by federal law, the company added dish washing detergent to the water. Let this plea be a lesson to any company that thinks it can ignore the law the EPA will not tolerate it."

The guilty plea was entered before Chief United States District Court Judge Thomas K. Moore, who will set a date for sentencing.

"This guilty plea should be a message to those who pollute the marine environment of the Virgin Islands, that their conduct will not be tolerated," said United States Attorney James A. Hurd, Jr.

The investigation and prosecution of Varlack Ventures, Inc. is the result of a joint United States Coast Guard, Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division and Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) marine pollution enforcement operation.

Assistant Attorney General Schiffer and United States Attorney Hurd commended the United States Coast Guard, EPA Criminal Investigation Division and DPNR for their outstanding work in jointly investigating the case.

"The public is entitled to oceans that are free from illegal pollution. Those who illegally pollute our oceans will pay a price under the law," said Assistant Attorney General Lois J. Schiffer.

On October 16, 1998 a jury in federal district court in St. Thomas found Hubert Fredericks guilty of failing to notify the National Response Center of the discharge of oil. Fredericks was the Captain of the M/V Venture Pride. That case was also heard by Chief Judge Moore. A sentencing date for Fredericks has not yet been set.

Both cases were prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Sarah Weyler and Senior Litigation Counsel Howard P. Stewart, of the United States Department of Justice, Environmental Crimes Section.


For more information contact:
Mary Mears, Press Office
EPA Region 2
290 Broadway
NY, NY 10007-1866
Voice: 212-637-3669 FAX: 212-637-5046 E-Mail: mears.mary@epamail.epa.gov