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Dumped sewage off North Shore Beaches and in Charles River

February 8, 2010

BOSTON, MA - A company based in Marblehead pled guilty today in federal court to charges that it dumped raw sewage into North Shore waters from a popular ferry it operates out of Salem. Under the terms of a plea agreement, the company will pay a fine of $300,000 and publish apologies in regional newspapers.

United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz, Rear Admiral J. L. Nimmich, United States Coast Guard, Commander, First Coast Guard District and William Schenkelberg, Special Agent in Charge of the Northeast Region of the Coast Guard Investigative Service, announced today that The Rockmore Company, Inc. pled guilty to two violations of the Rivers and Harbors Act arising out of its practice of dumping human waste into local waters.

From 1990 to 2006 the company has operated a 59-foot long passenger vessel named the P/V Hannah Glover based in Salem. The Hannah Glover provides dinner cruises and sightseeing tours in the waters along the shores of the Massachusetts towns of Marblehead, Beverly and Manchester-by-the-Sea. On several occasions, the vessel ferried passengers to the Charles River in Boston to view the annual 4th of July celebration on the Charles River Esplanade. The company also regularly shuttled children from Marblehead to a summer camp on Children’s Island just off the Massachusetts coast. The company also operated a 116-foot barge called the P/V Rockmore, on which the company maintained a restaurant.

For many years crew members routinely utilized the ship’s sewage pump to discharge raw sewage directly overboard. Ordinarily, deck hands activated the pump and opened the overboard discharge valve either upon order of the master of the vessel, or upon observing the overflowing of the vessel’s public toilets.

The discharges took place at various locations along the Massachusetts coast, including in Salem Harbor and off beaches in Marblehead and Beverly, as well as in the Charles River near the Esplanade during July 4 celebrations in 2002. The discharges ranged in amount in the hundreds of gallons. The sewage discharged from the Hannah Glover included the waste generated by its passengers, as well as the sewage from the Rockmore, as the company’s employees routinely pumped the contents of the Rockmore’s sewage holding tank onto the Hannah Glover for disposal. During some summers, the company allowed the sewage holding tank aboard the Rockmore intermittently to overflow, such that raw, untreated sewage spilled into Salem Harbor.

Under a plea agreement between the Rockmore Company and the Government, the company will pay a fine of $300,000, of which $75,000 will be directed to the Massachusetts Environmental Trust to be used for water quality projects. The company will also issue a public apology in regional newspapers that serve coastal communities, including the Boston Herald, Standard-Times of New Bedford, Cape Cod Times and the Salem News. During its three years on probation, the company must report its activities to the U.S. Coast Guard and discharge its sewage in municipally approved disposal facilities.

“This sentence reflects the Government’s resolve to prevent our local waters from being used as a convenient dumping ground for those unwilling to pay for proper waste disposal,” said U.S. Attorney Ortiz.

“The plea demonstrates the Coast Guard's commitment, and our resolve to work with our government partners, in protecting the maritime environment from those who pollute our waterways and violate the law," said Rear Admiral Nimmich.

The case was investigated by the Coast Guard Investigative Service. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan F. Mitchell of Ortiz's Economic Crimes Unit and Special Assistant United States Attorneys Russell Bowman and Cassie Kitchen of the United States Coast Guard.


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