Phila. ash dumped at sea, ship captain says Annapolis businessman ordered cargo dumped in 1988, captain testifies

May 25, 1993|By Knight-Ridder News Service

WILMINGTON, Del. -- The case of Philadelphia's missing ash may have been solved at last.

The captain of the Khian Sea, the ill-fated cargo ship that roamed the world looking for a way to dispose of 11,000 tons of incinerator ash, said yesterday that he dumped it into the pTC Atlantic and Indian oceans on the direct orders of his boss, a businessman from Annapolis.

The Khian Sea created an international furor between 1986 and 1988 as it haplessly traveled to at least 11 countries on four continents in a vain attempt to legally dispose of Philadelphia's ash. During the odyssey, the ship was turned away at gunpoint at two ports, the crew almost mutinied, and its engineer threatened to scuttle the vessel and was also tossed into jail.

When the ship arrived in Singapore in November 1988, more than two years after leaving Philadelphia with its cargo, its ash had mysteriously disappeared. Both its crew and owners refused to say where it had gone.

Yesterday, the ship's captain, Arturo Fuentes, shed light on the mystery.

He said the crew dumped the ash, which was laced with small amounts of arsenic, lead, mercury, cyanide, chromium, dioxins and other chemicals, into the ocean.

Mr. Fuentes testified in federal court that between May and December 1988, the crew may have dumped as much as 7,500 tons into the Atlantic Ocean and the remaining 3,500 tons into the Indian Ocean. Earlier that year, at least 3,000 tons were dumped in Haiti.

During the six hours Mr. Fuentes testified, a large color photo taken on board the ship -- showing the brownish ash pouring into the ocean -- was propped in front of the jury.

Mr. Fuentes, 40, testified that he was repeatedly told to dump the ash into the ocean by one of his bosses, William P. Reilly, and was instructed to falsify ship records by another, John Patrick Dowd.

Mr. Dowd was president and Mr. Reilly was vice president of Coastal Carriers Inc., of Annapolis, which acted as operator of the Khian Sea.

The two businessmen are being tried by federal prosecutors in U.S. District Court in Wilmington. Mr. Dowd and Mr. Reilly are charged with lying to a federal grand jury in Delaware. Mr. Reilly also is charged with lying to a federal judge in Philadelphia and with ocean dumping without a permit.

Attorneys for Mr. Dowd and Mr. Reilly deny the charges.

Mr. Fuentes said that during the 13 months he was captain, he was repeatedly instructed by Mr. Reilly to dump the ash into the ocean. He said Mr. Reilly boarded the vessel near Fort Pierce, Fla., in January 1988 and told the ship's officers they would be given a bonus of one month's pay and the crew would be paid an extra $2 an hour in overtime to dump the cargo at sea.

From February to May 1988, the vessel was anchored at Big Stone Beach in the lower Delaware Bay. During this period, the federal Environmental Protection Agency sampled the ash and determined that it was non-hazardous under federal regulations. Inspectors found, however, that it contained small amounts of toxic chemicals.

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