By Brannon Finney
In June 2017, I tried to bring my mom sand for a belated Mother’s Day present. It had previously been used to sandblast paint off my boat.
Ironically, I was repainting and renaming the boat to separate it from its sordid past. I was told that the paint that came off my boat wasn’t toxic, and the sand was just sand, (copper slag variety deemed non-hazardous by the EPA), and that people use the spent sand for horse shoe pits and landscaping.
I decided to bring it home to my mom to use at her new property as fill. I had told the shipyard that was my intention from the first day of sandblasting, they encouraged the idea. I didn’t take it to cut corners or costs, I give away more in scholarships and donations every year, I was trying to do something nice for my mom.
After leaving the shipyard a week late, she told me she would only be able to unload it one pick up truck full at a time. I became anxious about getting ready for my first salmon season in time and letting the processing plant, fishermen and my entire gender down if I couldn’t pull it off.
After consulting my dumping placard and determining that the sand was safe to discharge, I decided to dump it overboard to make my deadline. Unfortunately, my placard was outdated by one year. Although both the copper slag sand and the paint we use are considered non-hazardous by the EPA, NOAA has different definitions, so it can still technically be considered pollution.
From the beginning, I have been totally honest about the events that transpired, I had a film crew on board and let him roll the whole thing. I didn’t have him delete it because I thought it proved our intentions were good — we cut open the bags carefully to prevent getting any plastic in the ocean. Literally to prevent pollution. I didn’t try to hide it because I thought I was within the law. As someone who recycles, conserves, reuses, and goes green whenever possible, I’d never intentionally discharge a “pollutant.”
The prosecution threatened to charge me with a felony if I did not agree to this plea deal. The penalty seemed fair to me. But I had no idea then that it would be publicly reported on so one-sidedly. I think I would have fought harder if I had known my name and my boat would be shamed like this.
I use my boat to bring supplies to firefighters, to transport recycling for local businesses, to employ and provide scholarships to women in fishing, to start a “teach a girl to fish” program bringing young adults out to learn about the industry, to donate to those in need. I have learned from it and will accept the consequences of my mistake, but I’m not the villain that the prosecution has made me out to be. I hope my negligence can be forgiven and learned from in the future.