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August 21, 2008

Former Coast Guard CWO sentenced

David G. Williams, a former Chief Warrant Officer in the U.S. Coast Guard and main propulsion assistant for the Coast Guard Cutter Rush, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Hawaii for making a false statement to federal criminal agents investigating allegations of potential discharges of oil-contaminated waste from the cutter into the Honolulu Harbor, announced Ronald J. Tenpas, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.

Williams was sentenced to pay a $5,000 fine, serve 200 hours of community service and serve two years of probation.

Williams was indicted by a federal grand jury on Aug. 8, 2007, for lying to federal criminal investigators about his knowledge of the direct overboard discharge of bilge wastes through the ship's deep sink into the Honolulu Harbor. As the main propulsion assistant, he oversaw the maintenance of the main diesel engines and other machinery in the engine room for the Rush, a 378 ft high-endurance cutter stationed in Honolulu. On May 1, 2008, Williams pleaded guilty to making a false statement to federal law enforcement agents.

According to the plea agreement, on or about March 8, 2006, Williams had knowledge of the direct discharge of bilge wastes into Honolulu Harbor. The Engineering Department personnel aboard the Rush engaged in an unusual and abnormal operation and configuration of engine room equipment to pump bilge wastes from the aft bilge to the deep sink and overboard into Honolulu Harbor, thereby bypassing the "oily water separator" (OWS) system. The OWS system is a pollution prevention control device used by high endurance Coast Guard cutters like the Rush to manage accumulations of bilge wastes while underway at sea. The OWS system collects, stores and processes wastes to separate the water from the oil and other wastes.

On or about March 13, 2006, the State of Hawaii Department of Health received an anonymous complaint stating that Rush crew members were ordered to pump approximately 2,000 gallons of bilge waste into Honolulu Harbor. On May 1, 2006, investigators from the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) received confirmation from Main Propulsion Division personnel who personally participated that bilge wastes had indeed been discharged through the deep sink and into Honolulu Harbor. CGIS investigators obtained various corroborative documents from the Rush, including engineering and ship's logs, tank level sounding sheets, as well as the pneumatic pump used to facilitate the discharges.

When interviewed by investigators from the CGIS, Williams denied knowledge of personnel discharging bilge waste to the deep sink and stated that he was not aware of the pumping of bilge wastes to bypass the ship's OWS system.

The government's investigation was initiated by the CGIS. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Section Chief Joseph A. Poux of the Justice Department's Environmental Crimes Section; Ronald G. Johnson, chief of the Major Crimes Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney William L. Shipley, both of the District of Hawaii; and Commander Timothy P. Connors of the Coast Guard.


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