FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday - May 17, 2004
VIRGINIA DARE MEMORIAL BRIDGE, MANTEO, N. C.,
CONTRACTOR PLEADS GUILTY TO ENVIRONMENTAL VIOLATIONS
ELIZABETH CITY - Acting United States Attorney George E. B. Holding announced that BALFOUR BEATTY CONSTRUCTION, INC., a subsidiary of United Kingdom-based Balfour Beatty, PLC, entered a guilty plea in federal court in Elizabeth City on Monday, May 17, 2004, before Chief U. S. District Judge Terrence W. Boyle. Pursuant to a written plea agreement with the U. S. Attorney's Office, the company pled guilty to a violation of the Rivers and Harbor Act of 1899, for excavating, filling, and altering the course of the Croatan Sound, a navigable water of the United States, without a permit having been issued by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. The company also pled guilty to a violation of the Clean Water Act, for the negligent discharge of a pollutant, in this case dredged spoil, from a point source into a navigable water of the United States, without a permit. The company faces a maximum penalty on each count of five years probation and a fine of $200,000. A sentencing date has not been set.
According to information in the public record and presented to the court, BALFOUR BEATTY CONSTRUCTION, INC., built the Virginia Dare Memorial Bridge spanning the Croatan Sound from Manns Harbor to Manteo. The five-mile bridge opened to traffic in August of 2002. As part of demobilizing from and cleaning up the site, BALFOUR BEATTY CONSTRUCTION, INC., had to remove a temporary load-out trestle that extended out into the water of the Croatan Sound and which was used to facilitate the construction of the bridge.
Between October 21, 2002, and October 31, 2002, the company's project manager ordered his construction crew to use the propeller backwash from a tugboat to displace the sound bottom so that a crane and barge could maneuver in the shallow waters of Manns Harbor in order to dismantle the trestle. At the time, the project manager was aware that the company needed authorization from the Army Corps of Engineers to engage in the dredge and fill activity; ignored requests by the N. C. Department of Transportation to cease the wrongful conduct; and ordered employees to create an unauthorized channel, resulting in approximately 5,500 cubic yards (roughly equivalent to 500 dump truck loads) of dredged spoil impacting as much as 8.2 acres of shallow water habitat. The resulting dredge was the largest unauthorized dredge ever in the coastal waters of North Carolina.
Croatan Sound and Manns Harbor are navigable
waters of the United States. In addition, this area has been designated
high quality waters by the State.
On April 15, 2002, Richard Douglas Hall, the captain who operated the tugboat used in the illegal dredge and fill activity, pled guilty to a one-count Criminal Information charging him with a violation of the Rivers and Harbor Act. He faces a maximum penalty of one year imprisonment, a $100,000 fine, and a $25.00 special assessment. Hall's sentencing has not been scheduled.
Acting United States Attorney Holding stated, "There must be strict adherence to the environmental regulations when large-scale public projects are constructed in our State's natural resources. The agreement reached in this case continues this office's commitment to prosecuting violations of the federal environmental laws."
Acting Special Agent in Charge Maureen O'Mara of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency-Criminal Investigation Division, Atlanta area office, stated, "The EPA is pleased with the guilty plea filed today in U. S. District Court. The EPA has forged strong partnerships with federal, state, and local agencies to effectively investigate the more egregious violators of our country's environmental laws."
Investigation of this case was conducted by the U. S. EPA-CID, the N. C. State Bureau of Investigation, and the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. Assistant U. S. Attorney Banumathi Rangarajan is prosecuting the case for the government.