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Two Firms Face EPA Fines for Ocean Dumping Violations in Dredging Operations in Mass.

Release Date: 12/06/2010
Contact Information: Paula Ballentine, 617-918-1027

(Boston, Mass. – Dec. 6, 2010) – Two New England firms are the subject of EPA enforcement actions for improper disposal of dredged sediments in ocean waters during recent dredging projects in Massachusetts Bay harbor communities.

With end of summer boating season and the resumption of annual dredging operations throughout New England waters, companies who are contracted to perform dredging of harbors and other waterways are reminded to carefully follow all state and federal permit requirements for both the removal and disposal of dredged sediments.

EPA has pursued two recent enforcement actions under the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA), commonly known as the Ocean Dumping Act. In both cases, EPA has coordinated closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (which is the actual permitting authority for dredging projects) and with offices of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, including Mass. Dept. of Environmental Protection (MA DEP) and Coastal Zone Management (CZM). The goal of the Ocean Dumping Act is to regulate the dumping of all types of materials into ocean waters and to prevent or strictly limit the dumping into ocean waters of any material which could adversely affect human health or welfare or the marine environment.

Cashman Dredging & Marine Contracting Co., LLC, based in Quincy, Mass., recently reached settlements with both EPA and with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for alleged violations occurring during its dredging of the Porter and Crane Rivers in Danvers, Mass. Cashman was found by the state and federal agencies, including EPA, the Army Corps, MA DEP and CZM, of performing a “short dump” of sediment in Beverly Harbor, which was well outside of the prescribed ocean dumping zone authorized by the permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers. Unauthorized dumping of dredged sediment within Beverly Harbor harmed the aquatic environment, which was documented by an EPA dive investigation of the dump area.

EPA also alleged that the company overdredged in some areas and took unauthorized sediments for disposal in the Massachusetts Bay Disposal Site. The state also brought a suit for illegal dredging and disposal violations under state law.

“When companies like Cashman perform work in the Commonwealth’s sensitive wetlands and coastal ecosystems, they must comply with the permits issued by MassDEP for that work,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. “Here, Cashman’s alleged failure to carefully conduct its dredging activities damaged important fisheries habitat in Beverly Harbor. The civil penalty and habitat improvement work required will alleviate the damage Cashman caused to the harbor seabed, and also help ensure that companies adhere to permit requirements during dredging projects.”

Working cooperatively with the state and federal agencies, the company reached a settlement of both the federal and state actions. Under the terms of the settlement of the Federal case, Cashman will pay a penalty of $50,000, which includes performance of a “supplemental environmental project” favored by the federal and state natural resource agencies and the Town of Beverly Harbormaster. Specifically, the company will install in Beverly Harbor “low impact” moorings that will prevent turbidity and allow for eelgrass habitat recovery. This project will produce environmental and/or public health benefits beyond those required by law.

In a separate action, EPA has filed an administrative complaint against Burnham Associates, Inc., based in Salem, Mass. for alleged MPRSA violations associated with a dredging project in the Town of Hingham, Mass. EPA reviewed documentation that showed that on at least 28 occasions, Burnham dumped dredged sediments within the Massachusetts Bay Disposal Site that were in some cases up to one nautical mile from their prescribed target location.

These errors deprive regulators from: the ability to monitor the sediments once they have been disposed of and determine migration and erosion rates; the ability to monitor impacts on the marine environment; and, particularly in this case, to construct a boundary of a “containment cell” that could potentially limit the lateral spread of future dredged material. Burnham faces fines of up to the maximum allowed under the federal statute which is $70,000 for each disposal event.

“It is very important for companies that provide dredging services to carefully follow all of the permit requirements. This helps to protect our environment,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office.

The Massachusetts Bay Disposal Site is a circular area 2 nautical miles (nm) in diameter, located approximately 10 nm south-southeast of Eastern Point in Gloucester, 12 nm southeast from Gales Point in Manchester, Mass. and 18 nm from the entrance to Boston Harbor.

More information:

EPA dredging topics in New England (
http://www.epa.gov/region1/topics/water/dredging.html)

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12/09/2010 - Clarifying edits made to PR to make clear that Burnham Associates was only subject to EPA enforcement action, and not the subject of Massachusetts enforcement action.