A cruise ship company will plead guilty to discharging 20 000 gallons of untreated sewage from one of its ships while docked in harbor of Alaska's capital city Juneau, the U.S. attorney's office has said.
In addition to paying $200 000 in fines and $500 000 in restitution, Holland America Line Cruise Ships will spend $1.3 million on a plan to prevent a similar accident.
The Seattle-based company also will be placed on three years probation after the plea agreement is signed Monday in federal court.
"It was a mistake and shouldn't have happened," company spokeswoman Rose Abello said Tuesday. "We apologize and we admit it and we are sorry, and we have taken significant measures to make sure it doesn't happen again."
The 700-foot Ryndam is equipped with an advanced wastewater treatment system. The problem arose aboard the 1 258-passenger ship on August 17, 2002, and was compounded when the crew ignored audible and visual alarms activated when a sewage tank approached maximum capacity.
A Juneau citizen noticed a brown-colored discharge flowing from the ship into the harbor and alerted the ship's staff. However, they didn't respond immediately, allowing the sewage to continue to flow unabated, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Feldis said.
Abello acknowledged the mishap resulted from "a series of human errors."
The $500 000 in restitution will go to the National Forest Foundation, a nonprofit group trying to reduce the amount of untreated sewage and other pollutants entering Alaska's coastlines.
In addition, Holland America will spend $1.3 million on a compliance plan to implement new environmental safeguards and provide better training aboard all Holland America ships.
Independent auditors also will be hired to evaluate and monitor operations on the ships and report problems to the government.