Forgot Password?
Home arrow GreeniacsArticles arrow Environmental News arrow Crimes Against the Environment
Written by Brandon King   
Share |
Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Crimes Against the Environment

The Environment’s Worst Offenders… While going green has become better for the corporate bottom line across the United States, there are still times when circumventing environmental laws and regulations maximizes margins. Below are four corporate criminals who shirked environmental responsibility when it became too costly:

1) Michael Evangelos Psomadakis and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines
On October 25, 1994, a possible oil discharge was detected coming from what was “then the largest cruise ship in the world,” Royal Caribbean’s Sovereign of the Seas. After capturing the slick on video, the United States Coast Guard and Justice Department launched an inquiry which eventually led to the discovery of a “fleet wide conspiracy… to save millions of dollars by dumping oily waste into the ocean.”1

Cruise ships are equipped with an anti-pollution device called an oil-water separator, which filters oil that has dripped from machinery from seawater. The filtered seawater is released back into the ocean, while the oil is collected and stored for removal onshore. Proper onshore disposal of oil is expensive, as it can cost a cruise ship operator up to $300,000.00 a year. Oil-water separators are also “notoriously difficult to operate.”2 Rather than operate this important device, several Royal Caribbean cruise ships simply bypassed it and discharged oil and waste directly into the sea. “Oil books were falsified so routinely”3 that Norweigan engineers referred to them as Eventrybok, or fairy tale, in Norweigan.

The fairytale ended in 1998, when Royal Caribbean was ordered to pay a record $9 million in fines.4 The company vowed it would never happen again, but it did: Royal Caribbean reported to the Coast Guard on July 15, 1998 that engineers aboard the Nordic Express had discharged ‘oily waste’ into the ocean. Michael Psomadakis, a Greek citizen and the Nordic Express’ chief engineer, was questioned by the Coast Guard the next day. He denied claims of an oil discharge and presented a falsified oil record book to support his claims. Two days later, Psomadakis was dismissed from Royal Caribbean. While being escorted to a hotel in Miami to collect his personal belongings, Psomadakis evaded FBI agents by exiting out a backdoor. He is currently thought to be in Greece, and is wanted on multiple charges of illegal dumping of oil and conspiracy.

For more information on pollution at sea read this GreeniacArticle.

2) John Karayannides and Sabine Transportation Co.
In 1998, Sabine Transportation Company purchased the S.S. Juneau with the intention of “carrying a cargo of wheat for Care and World Food Programs from Portland, Oregon to Bangladesh.” On October 27, 1998, the S.S. Juneau began its trip carrying 113,000 metric tons of wheat. The journey appeared uneventful, but when the Juneau arrived in Bangladesh that December, crew members discovered that 9,000 gallons of diesel fuel had leaked from the bottom of the cargo tank, contaminating 440 tons of the cargo of wheat.

The contaminated cargo was refused in Bangladesh, and a decision was made to try to dispose of it in Singapore. However, after receiving an initial bid of $139,000 from a waste disposal company—far higher than Sabine was willing to pay—it began exploring other options. With all legal methods of disposing the diesel-contaminated wheat looking costly, Sabine’s Vice President John Karayannides did what any smart white-collar criminal would do… He hired 15 Bulgarian laborers to dump the contaminated grain directly into the South China Sea. He later lied to investigators, saying that the wheat had been cleaned before being dumped.

Sabine paid a $2 million fine,5 but Karayannides fled the United States, most likely to Greece. He is charged with illegal dumping of oil and conspiracy.

3) William Austin Morgan and Hydromet International
In January 1995, Hydromet International purchased a facility in Newman, Illinois from a metals recycling company that had used it to treat “various forms of hazardous waste.”6 Hydromet’s plan to reclaim valuable metals from hazardous waste was unprofitable from the beginning, as the company did possess any “technically or environmentally viable”7 means to separate materials. Nor could it safely or legally dispose of any hazardous waste, but it still continued to accept it, allegedly accepting more than 3.8 million pounds of “toxic and reactive wastes”8 between 1995 and 1998. These wastes included cyanide, arsenic, lead, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, nickel and selenium.9

Hydromet’s unprofitable facility shut down in early 1998, and an injunction filed in Illinois state court ordered Hydromet to process or dispose of the materials at a permitted site by May 31, 1999. Disposing of the waste legally would have cost Hydromet a lot of money it didn’t have, so it used false documentation to ship the waste to warehouses, non-hazardous landfills, and “other illegal facilities”.10

William Austen Morgan, the former CEO of Hydromet, was believed to be hiding in Canada by the EPA after a 2006 Illinois indictment, however, he has been reported as deceased in October 2009.11

4) Denis Feron and Chemetco
Denis Feron was the owner and Chief Executive Officer of Chemetco, an Illinois copper smelter that, until its bankruptcy in 2001, produced about 50% of the United States’ non-mined copper output.12 Part of Chemetco’s productivity was due to the fact that it bypassed EPA waste disposal requirements by installing a secret pipe at its factory and used it to dump pollutants directly into Illinois’ Lake Long, a tributary of the Mississippi River. For ten years, from 1986 to 1996, Chemetco pumped waste water containing cadmium, zinc, and lead into Long Lake; these pollutants are hazardous to both wildlife and humans.

Owner and CFO, Denis Feron, along with his colleagues were charged with violating the Clean Water Act. Rather than face the possibility of a five year sentence and $250,000 fine, Feron fled to his native Belgium. In January 2010, Feron resurfaced and paid $500,000 in restitution; all remaining charges against him were dropped.13 However, the impact of his company’s irresponsibility stands: “1,500,000 tons of slags, sludges, and other materials of environmental concern”14 remain at the former Chemetco site.

The Latest and Worst Attack Seen In United States History… As British Petroleum undergoes intense scrutiny for causing what many are calling the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history, it is a good time to remind ourselves that they are neither the first nor the last company to leave a lasting negative impact on the environment. And while the magnitude of the BP oil spill in the Gulf is almost incomprehensible, it was an accident, at least that’s what it is classified for the time being. The actions of these four environmental outlaws, most certainly, were deliberate.

Browse all Greeniacs Articles Browse all Greeniacs Guides        Browse all Greeniacs Articles



3 Id.
4 Id.
8 Id.
9 Id.
10 Id.
11 +Crimes;


Add your comment
RSS comments

Only registered users can write comments.
Please login or register.

Click here to Register.  Click here to login.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 10 February 2011 )


Green Facts

  • Less than 1% of electricity in the United States is generated from solar power.

  • In California homes, about 10% of energy usage is related to TVs, DVRs, cable and satellite boxes, and DVD players.

  • Americans throw away more than 120 million cell phones each year, which contribute 60,000 tons of waste to landfills annually.

  • Americans use 100 million tin and steel cans every day.

  • Refrigerators built in 1975 used 4 times more energy than current models.

  • You will save 300 pounds of carbon dioxide for every 10,000 miles you drive if you always keep your car’s tires fully inflated.

  • Americans throw away enough aluminum to rebuild our entire commercial fleet of airplanes every 3 months

  • Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as 1,000,000 sea creatures every year.

  • Current sea ice levels are at least 47% lower than they were in 1979.

  • It takes 6,000,000 trees to make 1 year's worth of tissues for the world.

  • A laptop consumes five times less electricity than a desktop computer.

  • For every 38,000 bills consumers pay online instead of by mail, 5,058 pounds of greenhouse gases are avoided and two tons of trees are preserved.

  • Recycling 100 million cell phones can save enough energy to power 18,500 homes in the U.S. for a year.

  • You will save 100 pounds of carbon for each incandescent bulb that you replace with a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL), over the life of the bulb.

  • Bamboo absorbs 35% more carbon dioxide than equivalent stands of trees.

  • A steel mill using recycled scrap reduces related water pollution, air pollution, and mining wastes by about 70%.

  • The World Health Organization estimates that 2 million people die prematurely worldwide every year due to air pollution.

  • Washing your clothes in cold or warm instead of hot water saves 500 pounds of carbon dioxide a year, and drying your clothes on a clothesline six months out of the year would save another 700 pounds.

  • 77% of people who commute to work by car drive alone.

  • American workers spend an average of 47 hours per year commuting through rush hour traffic. This adds up to 23 billion gallons of gas wasted in traffic each year.

  • You’ll save two pounds of carbon for every 20 glass bottles that you recycle.

  • Due to tiger poaching, habitat destruction, and other human-tiger conflicts, tigers now number around 3,200—a decrease in population by about 70% from 100 years ago.

  • States with bottle deposit laws have 35-40% less litter by volume.

  • Every week about 20 species of plants and animals become extinct.

  • A single quart of motor oil, if disposed of improperly, can contaminate up to 2,000,000 gallons of fresh water.

  • Glass can be recycled over and over again without ever wearing down.

  • If every U.S. household turned the thermostat down by 10 degrees for seven hours each night during the cold months, and seven hours each weekday, it would prevent nearly gas emissions.

  • Nudge your thermostat up two degrees in the summer and down two degrees in the winter to prevent 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

  • An aluminum can that is thrown away instead of recycled will still be a can 500 years from now!

  • Recycling for one year at Stanford University saved the equivalent of 33,913 trees and the need for 636 tons of iron ore, coal, and limestone.

  • Recycling aluminum saves 95% of the energy used to make the material from scratch.

  • Recycling 1 million laptop computers can save the amount of energy used by 3,657 homes in the U.S. over the course of a year.

  • In the United States, automobiles produce over 20 percent of total carbon emissions. Walk or bike and you'll save one pound of carbon for every mile you travel.

  • 82 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. come from burning fossil fuels.

  • A tree that provides a home with shade from the sun can reduce the energy required to run the air conditioner and save an additional 200 to 2,000 pounds of carbon over its lifetime.

  • Shaving 10 miles off of your weekly driving pattern can eliminate about 500 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions a year.

  • Turning off the tap when brushing your teeth can save as much as 10 gallons a day per person.

  • One recycled aluminum can will save enough energy to run a 100-watt bulb for 20 hours, a computer for 3 hours, or a TV for 2 hours.

  • Rainforests are being cut down at the rate of 100 acres per minute.