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Environmental Enforcement: $4 Million Penalty Imposed in 2003 Staten Island Barge Explosion

The owner and operator of a barge that exploded eight years ago, killing two workers and releasing 50,000 barrels of gasoline into the Arthur Kill Waterway, in Staten Island, New York, has agreed to a $4 million civil penalty to the U.S. Coast Guard, Fire Engineering reports.

The civil penalty is the largest ever collected by the Coast Guard in a federal Clean Water Act case, according to Loretta Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York and Admiral Daniel Neptun, Commander of the First Coast Guard District. It will be paid by the barge’s operator, Bouchard Transportation Company of Melville, NY, and its owner, the B. No. 125 Corporation.

The civil penalty will be deposited into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund and used to clean up future oil spills and to fund other government expenses related to oil pollution.

According to the Coast Guard’s 2003 complaint, on February 21, 2003, over 50,000 barrels of gasoline were discharged into the Arthur Kill Waterway as a result of an explosion and fire on the B-125 barge, which was operated by Bouchard and owned by the B. No. 125 Corporation. The explosion and fire occurred while the barge was in the process of unloading a cargo of gasoline at the ExxonMobil Port Mobil Facility in Staten Island. Two Bouchard employees were killed in the fire, and an ExxonMobil employee suffered severe burns and injuries.

“When companies discharge oil and other hazardous substances into U. S. waters and the environment, we will aggressively pursue appropriate enforcement action, including prosecuting violators under the Clean Water Act. The Coast Guard and partner agencies will continue to hold polluters accountable for their actions by strictly enforcing this nation’s environmental laws,” Admiral Neptun said in a statement.

The Coast Guard’s case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tiana A. Demas, with assistance from Lieutenant Commander Timothy Pavilonis of the U.S. Coast Guard.

The settlement awaits approval by U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis in Brooklyn, NY.

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