Dave Matthews Band's concerns for the environment stretch
from marine life in Biscayne National Park to transit
riders in the San Francisco Bay Area.
But on Tuesday the band was accused
of making a not-so-ecofriendly contribution to the Chicago
River: dumping raw sewage from a tour bus onto the heads
of people aboard an architectural tour boat.
A civil complaint by Illinois Attorney
General Lisa Madigan says the Dave Matthews Band Inc.
and Stefan A. Wohl, the driver of the bus, polluted
the river by illegally dumping "liquid waste''
from the septic tank of the bus. Madigan said Wohl flicked
a switch behind his seat and unleashed up to 800 pounds
of human waste as he drove one of the band's buses over
the Kinzie Street bridge.
Her office is seeking $60,000 in penalties.
The band -- which has sent investigators
pictures of the buses and even offered to provide DNA
samples to fight the allegations -- defended the driver.
"Our driver has stated that he
was not involved in this incident,'' a statement from
the band said. "We reserve judgment on anyone until
we have seen the evidence. We have been and will continue
to be cooperative in this investigation.''
Police Supt. Phil Cline said detectives obtained videotape
footage from businesses nearby that show the bus on
the bridge at the time of the incident earlier this
month. The same bus was also seen parked at the Peninsula
Hotel, where the band was staying. Another source said
the video footage from near the bridge also captured
images of a license plate that could be linked to the
Wohl was driving one of the band's buses
from a parking area just west of the Chicago River to
pick up a band member at the Peninsula Hotel when he
made the illegal dump at 1:18 p.m., according to the
The raw sewage fell onto people aboard
Chicago's First Lady, the city's popular architecture
tour boat. More than 100 people were aboard the packed
boat at the time.
The tour had been under way for 20 minutes
when the sewage splashed onto the boat and into the
eyes and mouths of tourists. The boat immediately returned
to the dock and five people went to Northwestern Memorial
Hospital for tests and treatment, police said.
Chicago Police zeroed in on the band,
which was playing in the Chicago area that weekend,
after someone aboard the boat recognized the buses,
having seen them parked outside the Peninsula.
The tour company and the charter company
refunded the $25 cost of the ticket to about 100 people
who were on board. Several people have since contacted
the companies seeking reimbursement for damages to clothing
and other items.
"We're very pleased to see a resolution
to this,'' said Holly Agra, president of Mercury Yacht
Charters, which has operated on the river for several
decades. "Certainly in 61 years . . . we never
could have dreamed to have that in our training program.
It was awful.''