A Fairbanks man who dumped a car in the Chena River last month was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and cleanup costs after pleading guilty Oct. 3 to oil pollution and a protection of fish and game violation.
Mario Ansil Bruce Jr. was charged with using a wheeled vehicle on the bed of the Chena River, polluting Alaska waters, permitting the discharge of oil into state waters, and failing to immediately contain and clean up the discharge. He was also charged with disposing of a vehicle without ensuring the battery was removed, the vehicle was drained of oil and that it did not create a visual nuisance.
According to a news release posted on the Alaska State Troopers website Thursday, troopers responded to a Sept. 3 report of a vehicle in the river near the end of Chena Small Tracts Road and found an older model brown sedan partially sunken about 30 feet from shore. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation was notified and helped contain an oil slick in the water and on the shore caused by oil leaking from the car.
The car did not have any license plates, but wildlife troopers were able to identify it after taking underwater photos. The owner was tracked to Florida, and further investigation led troopers to Bruce on Sept. 6. Bruce eventually admitted to dumping the vehicle in the river and failing to notify the Department of Fish and Game as required.
Bruce was issued a summons for polluting an anadromous salmon stream and ordered to appear in Fairbanks court. At his plea hearing and sentencing Oct. 3, Bruce said he would plead no contest and wanted to "get this over with." When told the deal was for a guilty plea, Bruce said "I'll just take the deal," according to court records.
Bruce was sentenced to 60 days in prison with all 60 suspended, a $10,000 fine with $5,000 suspended and three years probation. He must pay restitution, cleanup costs and apply for the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend until the fine is paid.
The official Alaska State Trooper Facebook page had photos of the car in the river with a comment about the incident.
"One of the many cool things about Alaska — along with its wildlife, scenic beauty, and super nice people — is its pristine waters and awesome fisheries. We Alaskans rightly take pride in our streams and lakes, our salmon runs, grayling, trout, and char. So when somebody purposely dumps a filthy, greasy, oil-and-fuel leaking old car into one of our favorite fishing rivers, you can bet our Alaska Wildlife Troopers will be on it," the comment reads.
Contact staff writer Dorothy Chomicz at 459-7582. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMcrime.