LMC agrees to pay $25,000 penalty for mercury discharge

March 22, 2013

Badger in Fog '91Lake Michigan Carferry Service, owner of the SS Badger, was sued by the United States Government for allegedly violating mercury water standards in 2012. Through a proposed consent decree, LMC has agreed to pay a $25,000 civil penalty.

The consent decree is a settlement between the U.S. government and LMC in regards to the carferry no longer being able to discharge coal ash slurry into Lake Michigan. As reported earlier by MCP, LMC has until the end of the 2014 sailing season to come up with a solution to removing the ash without discharging it in Lake Michigan.

““This consent decree offers the fastest and most certain path available to EPA to stop the discharge of coal ash from the Badger into Lake Michigan,” said Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman. “The enforcement agreement reduces the discharge of coal ash more quickly and with greater oversight than would occur during the appeal of a decision to issue or deny a permit – a process that often takes several years.”

The decree requires LMC to reduce the average amount of coal ash daily. By the end of the 2014 season the average amount of coal ash must be 15 percent less than the 2012 season. The service could face a $65,000 fine if does not comply.

The Badger was authorized to discharge coal ash under the 2008 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Vessel General Permit. A permit provision authorized that discharge until December 2012. The S.S. Badger is the last coal-fired ship operating on the Great Lakes.

Last year, LMC applied for an individual NPDES permit to allow the Badger to continue discharging coal ash into Lake Michigan. In light of the settlement announced today, EPA does not plan to make a decision on that permit application.

According to an EPA press release, the Department of Justice and EPA will accept and consider comments on the proposed consent decree during a 30-day public comment period, to be announced shortly in the Federal Register. The proposed consent decree is available on the DOJ website at http://www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html. Additional information about the S.S. Badger is available at http://www.epa.gov/region5/water/npdestek/badger/.

“The resolution of this issue has taken far longer than we had hoped, but the end result has been worth the effort,” said Bob Manglitz, President and CEO of Lake Michigan Carferry, “This agreement will save the jobs of our 200 plus employees as well as many other jobs in the states of Michigan and Wisconsin. We appreciate the support we have received from our elected representatives in Michigan and Wisconsin and the encouragement of the thousands of people who have supported our efforts to keep the badger sailing.”

The 42-page consent decree states LMC denies that it discharged mercury at unacceptable levels.

Though LMC states it does not know what the cost of building an ash discharge system will be, it apparently will be less than the other option of converting the ship’s engines to operate on liquefied natural gas.

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