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Press Release

Federal Complaint Alleges Barge Operator Illegally Discharged Pollutants into the Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois, for Years

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Illinois


James L. Porter, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced today that the United States has filed a Clean Water Act (CWA) complaint in the Southern District of Illinois on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency against American Commercial Lines, Inc. (ACL), and its wholly-owned subsidiary, ACBL Transportation Services, LLC (ACBLTS), alleging that from June 2007 to February 2014, the two companies repeatedly and consistently violated their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits at their facility in Cairo, Illinois.

According to the complaint, ACL – one of the largest marine transportation services companies in the United States – discharged sewage and polluted wastewater into the Ohio River from two office septic systems, a marine sanitation device, and a barge cleaning operation. The wastewater allegedly exceeded permit limits for four separate pollutants: biological oxygen demand, total suspended solids, total residual chlorine, and fecal coliform. The two companies are charged with committing at least 554 CWA violations over the span of almost seven years.

Reports submitted by ACL and ACBLTS to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency show that many of the alleged violations were egregious. The complaint notes over 50 occasions from 2007 to 2013 when ACL exceeded its daily maximum limit for fecal coliform (water contaminated by fecal matter) by a factor of nine or more, including at least 16 occasions when the concentration of fecal coliform measured 100 times higher than the permit limit. During one reporting period in September 2009, total residual chlorine – a pollutant that can be toxic to fish and other aquatic life even at low concentrations – allegedly registered more than 700 times the permit limit.

The complaint seeks civil penalties of up to $37,500 per violation day against both ACL and ACBLTS, as provided by statute.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Nathan D. Stump and Nicholas J. Biersbach, in concert with the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

Updated February 4, 2016