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October 1, 2005

Ferry operator faces jail in sewage dumping case

The former longtime operations manager of the Fishers Island Ferry faces jail after pleading guilty to deliberately dumping thousands of gallons of raw sewage and sludge from two ferries into Long Island Sound over the course of four years.

According to a report in the Hartford Courant, Mark Easter, 54, agreed to serve a month in prison for polluting the Thames River and Long Island Sound. He also faces a fine of $25,000 for each day the sewage was allowed to flow directly into the waterways.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas P. Smith accepted Easter's guilty plea and will sentence him Jan. 3.

As part of his plea agreement, says the Hartford Courant report, Easter admitted he directed ferry workers to leave discharge valves in the "open" position as the ferries M.V. Race Point and M.V. Munnatawket traveled between New London and Fishers Island.

Before pre-announced inspections, Easter would direct crew members to close the discharge valves. The Coast Guard made a surprise inspection of the vessels on July 13, 2004, and discovered the valves were unlocked and in the "open" position.

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