Dredging Firm to Pay $105,000 Fine for Ocean Dumping Violations

A Salem, Mass., dredging company has agreed to pay a penalty of $105,000 to settle EPA claims that it improperly disposed of dredged sediments.

EPA asserted that Burnham Associates violated the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act, commonly known as the Ocean Dumping Act, as part of a dredging project in Hingham Harbor. Burnham, through the actions of its subcontracted towing company, on at least 50 occasions dumped dredged sediments in locations that were in some cases up to one nautical mile from the designated coordinates within the prescribed ocean dumping zone. The Massachusetts Bay Disposal Site is a circular area two nautical miles in diameter about 18 nautical miles from the entrance to Boston Harbor.

These “misdumps” deprive regulators of the ability to monitor the sediments once they have been disposed of and so determine migration and erosion rates. In addition, regulators are unable to monitor impacts on the marine environment and, particularly in this case, to construct a boundary of a “containment cell” that could potentially limit the spread of future dredged material disposed of in the Massachusetts Bay Disposal Site.

The Ocean Dumping Act regulates the dumping of all types of materials into ocean waters.  In acting on this enforcement case, EPA coordinated closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the permitting authority for ocean dumping projects involving dredged materials.

Late last year another dredging company, Cashman Dredging & Marine Contracting Co., of Quincy, Mass., agreed to pay $50,000 for ocean dumping violations while dredging the Porter and Crane rivers in Danvers. This payment included a $12,500 cash penalty and $37,500 paid for installing in Beverly Harbor “low impact” moorings to prevent turbidity and allow eelgrass habitat to recover. According to regulators, Cashman performed a “short dump” of sediment in Beverly Harbor, well outside of the prescribed ocean dumping zone.  EPA also alleged that Cashman overdredged in some areas and took unauthorized sediments for disposal in the Massachusetts Bay Disposal Site.