Speaking of polluting ships, U.S. officials have recently uncovered a rash of illegal sludge dumping at sea, and they say it may only be the tip of the iceberg. A number of ships have been caught releasing tons of oily, toxic sludge that’s produced in their engine rooms, even as captains, crews, and corporate managers go to extremes to cover up their dirty deeds, doing everything from faking waste-disposal receipts to painting over brackets used to bypass pollution controls to lying to grand juries. Oftentimes the only way to catch a polluting ship is to get testimony from crew members, who can be loath to jeopardize their careers by turning in their employers. When they do talk, crew members paint an unsettling portrait: “Those we’ve talked to said [sludge dumping] was not aberrant behavior — it was viewed as accepted practice on other ships they’ve worked on,” said Jim Oesterle, criminal-enforcement counsel for the U.S. EPA. The feds have recently handed out a number of prison sentences to chief engineers and other shipping employees found guilty of fouling the high seas.
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