By Monte Miller, Missourian Staff Writer
Union MO (12/21/2018) – Tips from the Operation Game Thief and Clean Stream hotlines have led to the arrest of a Union man in connection with dumping used motor oil into the Bourbeuse River at the Reiker Ford conservation area last month.
Quenton B, Hellmann, 19, was charged Monday, Dec. 10, with misdemeanor littering, resulting in physical injury or property damage, punishable by one year in jail and up to a $2,000 fine.
If convicted, Hellmann also faces the prospect of paying restitution to the state for cleanup costs and remediation of the riverbank where the oil was dumped.
According to the probable cause statement filed by Missouri Department of Conservation (MDOC) agents in the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, on Nov. 22 Hellmann deposited used motor oil on the banks and in the Bourbeuse River, creating a substantial risk of physical injury or property damage to another.
Arresting documents state Hellmann was seen removing the 55-gallon drum from his truck, which was placed on a campfire that was on the riverbank.
Hellmann is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 16 in front of Judge Stanley Williams.
Hellmann has no criminal record other than a traffic violation for defective equipment in 2016.
Reiker Ford Road is located off Highway UU southwest of Union.
Felony charges were originally sought against Hellmann, but because much of the evidence was washed away by heavy rains late last month, the misdemeanor charge was all that was applicable, officials said.
Because of heavy rain that weekend, the river level had risen about a foot since the barrel had been dumped, which further dispersed the oil into a wider area.
Conservation agent Ben Pursley told The Missourian he discovered the illegal spill Saturday, Nov. 24, while on his regular patrol.
“The barrel was spilled on the gravel bar right on the shoulder of the road,” he said. “The barrel was partially open and it looks like about 20 gallons of what appears to be used motor oil had spilled into the water.”
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources was contacted along with the Environmental Protection Agency to assess damages and begin the cleanup of the oil, which involved the removal of about 500 pounds of material from the riverbank.
Although the immediate hazards to wildlife were unknown and there are no current hazards to the public from the oil, Pursley said if there was a fish kill due to the contamination, it can’t be proved at this time.
The Missourian first reported the spill on Nov. 27, and about a week later, a $1,000 reward was offered by Bourbeuse River Clean Stream Team No. 3 to find the person responsible for dumping oil into the river.