Chicago, IL (August 27, 2004)–The Dave Matthews Band, currently on tour, has been accused of violating Illinois state water pollution and public nuisance laws, fines for which could reach $70,000. The band and tour bus driver Stefan A. Whol were accused by Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan on Tuesday over an incident on August 8 where reportedly one of the band’s tour busses dumped 80-100 gallons of human waste on to a Chicago River tourist boat.
During a two-night stand at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, WI on August 7 and 8, the band stayed in a Michigan Avenue hotel in Chicago; according to the three-count civil complaint filed in Cook County Circuit Court, a black 2003 Monaco Royale Coach which was on tour with the production dumped a tank of effluence while crossing a grated bridge. Unfortunately, a boat of tourists on an architectural sight-seeing journey was passing underneath at the time.
As a result, more than 100 people on the boat’s upper deck were doused. The boat was later disinfected and all passengers were issued refunds for their $25 tickets. Perhaps unsurprisingly, several sightseers experienced nausea and vomiting after the material spilled into their eyes and mouths, causing five people to be sent to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for testing.
A band publicist claims the tour was not involved, and has stated that all of its busses were parked at the time of the incident, noting in a statement, “Our driver has stated that he was not involved in this incident. We reserve any judgment until we see the evidence.” On the day of the incident, police initially fingered Jerry Fitzpatrick, a driver for the band whose bus was parked nearby. Fitzpatrick denied involvement and insisted that police inspect his vehicle; its waste tank was nearly full.
Detectives pored through videotapes from local businesses’ surveillance cameras, eventually tracking the bus, they say, to Whol. In a statement, Madigan remarked, “This incident may be unique, but that does not lessen the environmental or public health risks posed by the release of at least 800 pounds of liquid human waste into a busy waterway and onto a crowded tour boat…. This situation clearly demonstrates the environmental and public health problems that can occur when laws are ignored. This act was not only offensive, it was illegal.”
Ironically, the band has a history of environmental awareness, going so far as to make a practice of planting trees to offset the amount of gaseous emissions created by their various tour busses and trucks.
Ruminating to the Chicago Tribune, Nancy Todor, a passenger whose 43rd birthday was ruined by the waste, said a $70,000 fine wasn’t enough of a punishment, suggesting that the band should perform a concert for the doused passengers as well.