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Cruise line pleads guilty to dumping sewage

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Cruise line pleads guilty to dumping

Sewage release in Juneau harbor will cost Holland America $2 million


Dumping 20,000 gallons of untreated sewage into the waters off downtown Juneau two years ago will cost Holland America more than $2 million.

The cruise line agreed to plead guilty to an illegal discharge witnessed in August 2002 from the ship Ryndam, announced U.S. Attorney for Alaska Timothy Burgess and Coast Guard Rear Adm. James C. Olson on Tuesday in Juneau.

The plea is scheduled to be entered Monday in U.S. District Court in Juneau. The company has agreed to pay the maximum $200,000 fine, but will pay more than twice that in restitution in Southeast Alaska, Burgess said. The biggest payout will set up new environmental safeguards aboard all of the company's cruise ships.

The agreement also calls for Holland America to be placed on probation for three years.

"No one's going to jail," Burgess said, explaining that the crime was charged as a misdemeanor and accurately reflects the Aug. 17 dumping incident involving the Holland America ship while it was docked.

"We all need to continue working as a team to ensure Alaska's waters remain clean," Olson said.

The incident was investigated after a Juneau resident reported seeing a bubbling brown substance near the ship. People in the community "often act as our eyes and ears," he said.

The conviction is significant as the first to arise from federal legislation passed in 2000, Burgess said.

John Shively, governmental and community relations vice president for Holland America Line, said the company apologizes to the people of Juneau and the incident shouldn't have happened.

"It was clearly an accident," he said. "That's why it was charged as a misdemeanor."

He said the dumping involved a new process in which waste was being put into a holding tank. The person handling the task met with a government official who came on board and left before the job was done, and nobody followed up on the process before the spill occurred.

In addition to the $200,000 fine, a $500,000 contribution to the National Forest Foundation and a $1.3 million investment in environmental compliance, Shively noted the company also will pay a $65,000 civil penalty to the state.

The $500,000 to the nonprofit National Forest Foundation will be used in reducing the amount of untreated sewage and other pollutants that enter the watersheds and coastal environment in Southeast Alaska, according to the agreement.

Burgess said that will go toward keeping Alaska waters pristine. Money from fines just goes into the national treasury, he added.

Holland America Line is a part of Carnival Corp., recognized as the world's largest cruise operator. For the nine months ending Aug. 31, Carnival Corp. revenues were $7.49 billion and net income was $1.56 billion, according to Forbes.com.

Gov. Frank Murkowski said he was pleased with the settlement.

"While we do not believe this discharge should have occurred, it is important to note that Holland America has installed advanced wastewater systems on most vessels visiting Alaska," he said in an official statement.

He added that while in the U.S. Senate, he sponsored the legislation under which Holland America was prosecuted. "With the benefit of the wake-up call provided by this incident and the protections this settlement will bring to Alaska waters, we accept Holland America's commitment to protect our marine environment."

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