PITTSBURGH The owners of a Norfolk, Va.-based ship-scrapping company face prison time and fines for allegedly demolishing a vessel in 2010 that was still filled with contaminants.
Billy J. Avery, 81, and Steven E. Avery, 56, the owners of Sea Solutions Inc., pleaded guilty to environmental charges in U.S. District Court in Virginia. They were charged with conspiring to illegally discharge pollutants, in violation of the Clean Water Act, and with making allegedly false statements to an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigator.
The U.S. Justice Department alleged that Sea Solutions was aware that the M/V Snow Bird contained petroleum products and other pollutants when it purchased the vessel, but began scrapping it in 2010 without removing the fluids. The material then spilled into the Elizabeth River, and clean-up costs totaled more than $66,000. The company allegedly pumped contaminated water overboard during the scrapping process to remove excess contaminated water and fluids from the ship to prevent it from sinking, the agency claims.
"Americas waterways must be protected from companies that look to cut corners by discharging oily wastewater illegally," David G. McLeod Jr., special agent in charge of the EPAs criminal enforcement program in Virginia, said.
Both men, who could not be reached for comment, face a prison sentence of up to one year, a $500,000 fine and five years probation. Sentencing is set for July.