Illegal Dumping Through a "Magic Pipe" Leads to a $1.2 Million Penalty

May 19, 2014

Oily waste was dumped into the ocean with sewage.

Inspections in New Haven harbor have led to $1.2 million in fines for a Singapore-based shipping company. The penalty was tied to illegal dumping in international waters using something called a "magic pipe."

Dawn Kallen, the Coast Guard's senior investigator at Sector Long Island Sound, said, "The ship's crew, the engine department, had actually constructed a pipe to go around the 'oily water separator.'"

Kallen said oily water separators are used on tanker ships to figure out whether or not oily waste is clean enough to dump in the ocean. In this case, investigators received a tip hours before a 577-foot tanker called the Bow Lind pulled into port in New Haven. The tip was that an engineer on board had rigged a "magic pipe" to bypass the separator and its pollution sensors.

"What the second engineer was doing was manually removing the oily waste from a bilge holding tank way down low in the engine room," Kallen said. "He was putting a hose through the tank top opening in the engine room and using a pump to run that up and discharge into a sewage holding tank."

That oily waste was then dumped into the ocean with the sewage. Kallen said the engineer continued running the separator, instructing crew members to run it with a mixture of sea water and fresh water. "The oily water separator is showing that's it's being run," Kallen said. "It was being run, but unfortunately, the liquid that was being put through was not the original oily water that was in that bilge tank," Kallen said.

The violations landed the second engineer a three-month prison term. He's a citizen of the Philippines, and will be deported after he serves his sentence.

Investigators have requested a portion of the $1.2 million fine be awarded to two whistleblowers involved with the case. Kallen said exactly how much they will receive is still to be determined.