BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Crime may not always pay but sometimes it can pay back–and it’s benefitting the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Alex DeMetrick reports ships that illegally dump waste at sea and get caught are helping to clean water in Maryland.

A lot of effort, time and expense goes into cleaning Maryland’s waterways. Now some of that funding is coming from way off Maryland’s coastline when ships get caught illegally dumping waste oil overboard, rather than disposing of it in port, where it costs money.

“So there’s an incentive for ships to dump this waste oil at sea,” said U.S. Attorney for Maryland Rod Rosenstein.

And it’s a reason for Rosenstein to go after them, provided Coast Guard inspectors find evidence. Two recent cases were made when crew members supplied that proof.

“They documented the dumping through videotape they produced themselves,” Rosenstein said.

The hoses and valves brought convictions and multi-million dollar fines, as well as a restitution fund to help clean the bay: $1.3 million from illegal dumping to plant the vegetation that absorbs pollutants before they make it into waterways.

The money collected from shipping companies convicted of polluting will pay for 10 restoration projects, most upstream from the bay but with the bay very much in mind.

“One of the things our fish need is good water quality,” said Stephanie Westby, NOAA Restoration Center.

NOAA’s Restoration Center isn’t getting any of the restoration money itself, but likes the idea it’s helping clean water.

“To improve these upstream habitats, that helps our fish down here in the Chesapeake Bay and of course some of the fish we see and catch spend part of their life cycle up in those fresh waters,” Westby said.

The whistleblowers who turn in their ships for illegal dumping take some serious risks but can collect rewards in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.


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