FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 1995

ENR (202) 616-0189 TDD (202) 514-1888

MAJOR TOWBOAT COMPANY AND TOP OFFICIALS INDICTED FOR 20-YEAR RIVER DUMPING CONSPIRACY WASHINGTON, D.C. -- M/G Transport Services, Inc., until recently one of the largest towboat companies in the United States, a top official of the company and six captains were today indicted by a federal grand jury for dumping pollutants into the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. According to the indictment, filed today in Federal District Court in Cincinnati, M/G Transport and Harschel Thomassee, the company's former Vice President of Operations and Port Engineer in charge of more than a dozen towboats, conspired to violate the Oil Pollution Act, the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships and the Clean Water Act over a twenty year period beginning in 1971 and ending in the 1991-1993 time period. Six towboat captains were also charged in the indictment for dumping pollutants into the rivers. M/G Transport and its employees deliberately dumped harmful quantities of oil and garbage from its towboats over the last two decades. The company and Thomassee are charged with deliberately failing to report to authorities a significant oil discharge that occurred on the Ohio River in Wheeling, West Virginia, in July 1990, by ordering employees to lie to authorities if questioned about the discharge. Thomassee's successor as Port Engineer, Roger Williamson, pled guilty to similar charges in December 1994, making him one of the first ever to be charged with polluting an inland water way from a vessel. The indictment charges that the towboat captains burned waste products on the decks of the barges and then dumped the resulting pollutants overboard, including plastic, metal, glass, ash, paint chips, and oil.

If convicted, the company could face up to $4.2 million in criminal fines. During the period of the charges, M/G Transport was the third largest towboat company in the United States. Defendant Thomassee and the six towboat captains could each face up to 5 years in prison and criminal fines. Lois J. Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, today said "Intentional dumping by ships threatens our nation's rivers.

We

must curtail pollution from ships." Edmund A. Sargus, Jr., the United Southern District of Ohio, stated that and today's indictment "tells industry Ohio River cannot be at the expense of States Attorney for the Williamson's guilty plea that commercial use of the the environment."

Ms. Schiffer and Mr. Sargus commended Special Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Transportation, the United States Coast Guard, and the Environmental Protection Agency for their investigation of this case. # # # 95-095