Boom is placed around a salvaged container ship after an oil leak is discovered on the south branch of the Elizabeth River, Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2010. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

A Virginia ship scrapping company and two of its owners have plead guilty to various environmental crimes stemming from their activities in the ship scrapping business.

According to court documents, Steven Avery, 56, of Bohannon, VA, and Billy Avery, 81, of Virginia Beach, VA, operated Sea Solutions, Inc., a VA-based ship scrapping business, and in February 2010 purchased the vessel M/V Snow Bird for the purpose of scrapping with the knowledge that it contained a quantity of petroleum products and other pollutants.   Despite knowing that these waste products were onboard the vessel and needed to be removed, the men commenced scrapping operations with the pollutants onboard.  Over the course of several months, witnesses complained of pollutants emanating from the M/V Snow Bird and finally, in October of 2010, the defendants caused a major spill of oil, oily water, and other pollutants from the operation into the Elizabeth River.  The cleanup operation removed several thousand gallons of oily waste from the Elizabeth River and the shoreline at the cost to the United States of over $66,000.

“America’s waterways must be protected from companies that look to cut corners by discharging oily waste water illegally,” said David G. McLeod, Jr., Special Agent in Charge of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) criminal enforcement program in Virginia.  “Improper waste disposal endangers not only the environment but human health.  EPA is committed to making sure criminal violations of environmental laws are not tolerated.”

Steven and Billy Avery each face a minimum 30 days and a maximum of 1 year in prison and, through Sea Solutions, Inc., could be forced to pay a fine of up to a $500,000 and five years of probation.  The sentencing will take place on July 12, 2012.

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