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U.S. EPA fines Washington state dredging company for ocean dumping violations

Release Date: 4/1/2004
Contact Information: Mark Merchant, 415/947-4297

Disposal barges leaked mud into Farallon National Marine Sanctuary during Richmond Harbor deepening project

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it has reached a $100,000 settlement with a dredging company for ocean dumping violations that occurred during a harbor deepening project at the Port of Richmond in the late 1990s.

The EPA cited the Manson Construction Company of Seattle, Wash. for Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act violations that took place in 1998. Barges used by the company spilled more than 20,000 cubic yards of dredged material – much of it within the Gulf of the Farallon National Marine Sanctuary – on their way to an EPA-approved ocean disposal site 50 miles west of San Francisco and 9,000 feet deep. One Manson barge, the Bayport, was responsible for most of the leaking.

Under the settlement with the EPA, Manson will pay a $100,000 penalty. Last fall the EPA reached a $20,000 settlement with another dredger, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company of Oakbrook, Ill, for similar violations on the same Port of Richmond project.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a contract to Great Lakes and Manson, who operated jointly, to dredge approximately 2.5 million cubic yards of non-toxic sediment from the Port of Richmond navigation channel and to dispose of the mud at the EPA-designated site.

Manson was responsible for many more trips with leaking barges and therefore faced larger fines. When Manson and the EPA were unable to reach an agreement before a Sept. 26 deadline, the EPA filed a complaint against them. Today’s settlement agreement resolves the EPA complaint.

"We work closely with ports and government agencies to protect both the environmental and the economic vitality of the San Francisco Bay estuary," said Alexis Strauss, director of the EPA’s Water Division in San Francisco. "Our continued vigilance will help the dredging contractors safely transport their materials to approved disposal locations."

The Ocean Dumping Act regulations guard against spilling or leaking material during transit through protected areas such as the Farallon sanctuary. These include having specialized tracking and leak-detection sensors installed on disposal barges.