Vessel Sewage Exception

Wednesday, August 04, 2004
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled that it is not a criminal violation of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) for a vessel to discharge raw sewage into waters of the United States. In the instant case, defendants had converted an old towboat into a floating restaurant. The restaurant was moored fifteen feet from shore on the Mississippi River and was attached to spud poles. Initially, sewage was removed by licensed waste haulers, but eventually the defendants started pumping the sewage directly into the river. Defendants were charged with violation of the provision in the FWPCA that prohibits discharge of pollutants into waters of the United States. The FWPCA provision, though, exempts sewage from a vessel from the definition of pollutant. The court held that, because the floating restaurant was capable of transport, it was a vessel and the “sewage from vessel” exception applied. Note: This sounds like a case of poor initial charging by the U.S Attorney, as other options were available and not utilized. United States v. Templeton, No. 02-1284 (8th Cir.) (HK Law)
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