Houston Barge Company Pleads Guilty
Western Towing Co. of Houston, Texas, pleaded guilty on May 16 to violating the Clean Water Act (CWA). Western Towing formerly operated a barge cleaning operation in Houston. Western Towing used river water to pressure-wash the cargo compartments of barges used to transport steel products, grain, gravel, sand, fertilizer and gypsum. The company had a CWA discharge permit which allowed it to discharge treated wastewater into the river, however the defendant did not treat the wastewater first. Discharging untreated barge cleaning wastewater into surface waters can harm fish and aquatic life and can make river waters unsuitable for recreational and drinking water usage. When sentenced, Western Towing faces a fine of up to $500,000 and/or up to five years probation. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the FBI, the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Houston Police Department's Environmental Investigations Unit, with the assistance of EPA's National Enforcement Investigations operation. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in Houston.