It took more than a year, but a conviction has been handed down to the man who dumped roughly 20 gallons of oil into the Bourbeuse River in November 2018.
On Monday, Feb. 10, Quenton B. Hellmann, 20, Union, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor littering and was ordered by Judge Stanley Williams to pay a $500 fine and $120 in court costs.
According to court documents, Hellmann is not ordered to pay any restitution, but if the fines of $620.50 are not paid in 30 days, an additional $25 will be added.
Hellmann was originally charged Dec. 10, 2018, with misdemeanor littering, resulting in physical injury or property damage, punishable by one year in jail and up to a $2,000 fine.
Tips from the Operation Game Thief and Clean Stream hotlines led to Hellmann’s arrest for dumping used motor oil into the Bourbeuse River at the Reiker Ford conservation area. Reiker Ford Road is located off Highway UU southwest of Union.
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.
According to the probable cause statement filed by Missouri Department of Conservation (MDOC) agents in the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, on Nov. 22, 2018, 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 a 55-gallon drum from his truck, which was placed on a campfire that was on the riverbank.
Hellmann has no criminal record other than a traffic violation for defective equipment in 2016 and excessive noise in 2019.
Felony charges were originally sought against Hellmann, but because much of the evidence was washed away by heavy rains, 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.
In 2018 MDOC agent Ben Pursley told The Missourian he discovered the illegal spill Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018, 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 looked like about 20 gallons of what appeared 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, after the initial cleanup there were no current hazards to the public from the oil.
Pursley said if there was a fish kill due to the contamination, it couldn’t be proven at that time.