Anchorage AK (5/23/2019) – U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder announced that Brannon Finney, 32, of Bellingham, Washington, was sentenced yesterday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Matthew Scoble after having pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful discharge of a pollutant, a violation of the Clean Water Act. The Court ordered Finney to pay a fine of $8,000, pay an additional $2,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation as a community service payment; and perform 40 hours of community work service. Finney will be on probation for 18 months and is required to post a public apology.
According to court documents, Finney, as captain of the F/V Alaskan Girl, caused the crew to dump approximately 16,000 pounds of sandblast waste into Sumner Strait. Specifically, on June 15, 2017, F/V Alaskan Girl was in route from Wrangell to Petersburg, Alaska with four bags, known as super sacks or brailer bags, on board. Each bag weighed approximately 4,000 pounds and contained sandblast waste. The waste, generated from the recent re-painting of the F/V Alaskan Girl, was a mixture of the copper slag used to remove the paint from the vessel as well as approximately 15 gallons of paint chips removed in the sandblast process. The waste – totaling eight tons – had been loaded onto the vessel at the direction of Finney.
Along with Finney and two crewmembers, a cameraman was also on board the F/V Alaskan Girl, filming for a possible cable TV reality show. Video footage taken during the trip from Wrangell to Petersburg captured one of the brailer bags hanging overboard the vessel while two crewmembers on board sliced through the bag with a knife. Afterwards, black sandy waste spilled from the sliced bag into the water, while at least one of the crew audibly cheered.
Once the vessel arrived in Petersburg, video footage showed an interaction between an Alaska Wildlife Trooper and Finney. In the video, the Trooper informed Finney that he had received a complaint about the vessel leaving the shipyard in Wrangell with sandblasting waste. When he asked where it went, Finney replied, “We just dumped it.” The investigation revealed that Finney unlawfully discharged the waste into Sumner Strait with the goal of avoiding spending $1,460 to dispose of it properly.
“Maintaining the pristine waters of Alaska is important to all residents and visitors to our state, said U.S. Attorney 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 vitally to our economy, as well as the environment.”
“Illegal discharges of pollution pose a serious threat to our oceans,” said Jeanne Proctor, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Alaska. “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 Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division (EPA-CID); the Alaska Wildlife Troopers; and the Alaska Department of Law, Office of Special Prosecutions conducted the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of this case. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonas M. Walker.
Contact: Chloe Martin Public Affairs Officer 907-271-4244