The U.S. Attorney’s office announced sentencing of a Bellingham skipper on Wednesday to Clean Water Act violations for unlawfully dumping a pollutant into Sumner Strait in southeast Alaska on June 15th, 2017 while enroute to Petersburg from Wrangell.
According to court documents, 32-year-old Brannon Finney was fined $8,000, must pay a community service payment in the amount of $2,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and complete 40 hours of community work service. Additionally, Finney will be on probation for a period of 18 months and must issue a public apology.
The case stemmed from a June 2017 incident that occurred as Finney was transiting to Peterburg from Wrangell with eight tons (16,000 pounds) of sandblasting and paint chip/copper slag waste loaded in brailer bags that was taken onboard at the direction of Finney at the Wrangell shipyard. The waste was generated as the fishing vessel Alaskan Girl underwent a cleaning and hull repaint in that port.
As the vessel was traveling through Sumner Straits, Finney decided to dump the waste rather than expend the $1,460 to lawfully dispose of the waste in port. Finney had the two crewmembers hang the brailer bags overboard and slice them open to spill the black sandy waste into the water. Consequently, Finney had on board a cameraman aboard who was filming for a possible reality show at the time and that cameraman captured footage of one of the bags of waste being dumped into the strait amid cheers from a crewmember.
When the Alaskan Girl entered port in Petersburg, they were met by an Alaska Wildlife Trooper who informed Finney that they had received a complaint from Wrangell that he had left the shipyard with the waste. That interaction was also captured on camera footage.
When the trooper queried where the waste went, Finney told the officer that “We just dumped it.” That footage was evidence in court.
“Maintaining the pristine waters of Alaska is important to all residents and visitors to our state, said U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder. “The quality of our waters is essential to Alaska’s fishing fleet. Fishing is one of the most important parts of our economy, and Alaska seafood is prized worldwide because of the quality of the catch. Protecting our waters is vital to our economy, as well as the environment.”
“Illegal discharges of pollution pose a serious threat to our oceans,” said Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Alaska, Jeanne Proctor. “Today’s sentencing demonstrates that EPA and its partner agencies are committed to protecting the marine environment and pursuing those whose illegal acts threaten our natural resources.”
The EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division, along with troopers and the Alaska Department of Law conducted the investigation that led to the successful prosecution of this case.