U.S. Water News Online
CHICAGO -- Prosecutors filed charges against the driver of
a Dave Matthews Band tour bus accused of dumping 800 pounds of human
waste onto a sightseeing boat on the Chicago River last summer.
The driver, Stefan Wohl, is charged with misdemeanor counts of
reckless conduct and discharging contaminates to cause water
pollution, Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine said. The charges
carry a maximum penalty of one year in jail and up to $10,000 fine if
Wohl, 42, of Selma, Texas, turned himself in to Chicago police and
was released on his own recognizance, authorities said. His attorney,
Mark Rotert, did not immediately return calls from The Associated
Press for comment.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has also filed a civil
lawsuit seeking $70,000 in damages against the band and driver
alleging they violated state environmental laws.
According to authorities, Wohl was alone in the bus and driving to
a downtown hotel on Aug. 8 when he allegedly emptied the bus' septic
tank as it crossed the metal grates of the Kinzie Street bridge.
The waste poured through the grates and onto the open deck of the
Chicago's Little Lady tour boat, which was passing below with more
than 100 people on board.
The boat immediately returned to its dock and was later cleaned
with disinfectant, and officials with the Chicago Architectural
Foundation, which operates the tour, offered refunds. They also said
they have received several calls from angry passengers who demanded
compensation for clothing and personal items.
Assistant State's Attorney Robert Egan said Wohl talked to
investigators shortly after the incident and, while he acknowledged
driving the bus over the river, "he denied having discharged any
waste over the bridge."
Prosecutors used surveillance tapes to zero in on the bus and
consulted with engineers about the releasing of the waste.
"We were satisfied with what they told us that it could not have
been an accident," Egan said.
He said prosecutors considered filing felony charges against Wohl,
but decided against it after determining nobody was injured.
Shortly after the incident, the band issued a statement on its Web
site saying that if the bus was found to be responsible, the band
would "work quickly to make amends, with the people on the boat and
The band has since donated $50,000 to the Friends of the Chicago
River and $50,000 to the Chicago Park District.
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