FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Rush is moored at the Coast Guard Base on Sand Island. An officer formerly assigned to the Rush has been charged with ordering pollutants to be discharged into Honolulu Harbor, the Coast Guard said yesterday. CLICK FOR LARGE
Bilge dump spurs charges
A U.S. Coast Guardsman was indicted by a federal grand jury yesterday on charges of lying during an investigation into whether he ordered the discharge of pollutants from a Coast Guard vessel into Honolulu Harbor.
Chief Warrant Officer 2nd Class David G. Williams Jr. was charged with obstructing justice and making false statements during an official investigation. Each of the charges carries a maximum five-year prison term, said Edward Kubo, U.S. attorney in Hawaii.
Rear Adm. Sally Brice-O'Hara, 14th Coast Guard District commander, said, "We take very seriously our role in protecting the oceans and its living marine resources, and this was action that was not in compliance with our core values or with the mission that we undertake as stewards of the marine environment."
Williams, 45, was the engineering department's main propulsion assistant aboard the Honolulu-based Coast Guard cutter Rush, responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the 378-foot vessel's main diesel engines and other machinery in the engine room.
On March 8, 2006, personnel of the Rush's engineering department pumped untreated oily water from the vessel's bilge directly into Honolulu Harbor, according to the indictment. Five days later the state Department of Health received an anonymous complaint that crew members were ordered to pump approximately 2,000 gallons of bilge waste into the harbor.
"In the course of the investigation, we determined that (Williams) was the one who gave the order," Kubo said.
The indictment said there were 10 other discharges of untreated bilge waste into the ocean while the Rush was performing law enforcement patrols off Central America and South America between September and December 2005.
Brice-O'Hara said strict Coast Guard procedures require vessels to treat bilge waste through their oily water separator systems before dumping the treated water overboard while at sea. The oil and other lubricants that were separated from the water are supposed to remain on board. If the vessel is in port, a contractor will take the oily water for proper disposal.
Based on the complaint, the Health Department, Coast Guard and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency launched their own investigations. Kubo said the state Departments of the Attorney General and Health agreed to suspend their investigations when the federal agencies started theirs. And he said all agencies have agreed not to pursue further action until the criminal investigation is completed.
Williams is a 24-year veteran of the Coast Guard. He was assigned to Rush in June 2005. He was removed from his duties aboard the Rush in May 2006, after the Coast Guard started its investigation, to make him available to investigators, Brice-O'Hara said.