Complaint: 'Egregious' Clean Water Act Violations by Barge Operator Near Cairo, Ill.

Jan 6, 2016

Credit Knowledgeum, via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

A federal complaint has been filed against a barge company alleging they discharged sewage and polluted wastewater into the Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois for more than half a decade.

The complaint was filed Tuesday against American Commercial Lines, Inc. by U.S. Attorney James Porter on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency. ACL and a subsidiary are charged with 554 Clean Water Act violations between 2007 and 2013 and could face more than $20 million  in penalties.

The complaint calls some of the violations "egregious", alleging that ACL often exceeded its daily limit for fecal coliform discharge near Cairo and Ballard County, Kentucky , including more than a dozen occasions where the fecal coliform concentration measured 100 times the legal limit.

A news release from the U.S. Department of Justice also notes once instance where residual chlorine - toxic to aquatic life - registered more than 700 times the legal limit.

ACL issued a statement in response: 

“The majority of issues were related to two malfunctioning sanitation units that created discharge that exceeded permit limits.  After discovering the problem, we self-reported it to the EPA and cooperated fully with the agency’s investigation.  We have replaced the units with a system that eliminates discharge into the river entirely. ACL is committed to protecting the environment in which we operate. We strive to exceed regulatory requirements and ensure continuous improvement in our environmental performance across all aspects of our business, boat and barge transportation, facilities and manufacturing."