A Los Angeles-area tour bus driver on Monday allegedly dumped raw sewage from his charter bus into an Oakhurst storm drain that feeds into the Fresno River.
The alleged incident happened around 9 a.m. Witnesses called the Madera County Sheriff's Department. The bus was located later that day in Yosemite National Park, and deputies were making plans to interview the driver.
"Thank God there was a witness," Madera County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Erica Stuart said.
Witnesses provided law enforcement officials with a license plate, and the bus was traced to Screamline Investment Corp., based in the City of Commerce.
The driver could face felony charges, and Stuart said the department will aggressively prosecute the case.
"This is not a joke," she said.
According to statements of witnesses, the driver of the charter bus stopped in the Raley's Shopping Center parking lot and let out 22 passengers. He then drove across the street and parked near the entrance to the U.S Post Office. At that point, he allegedly emptied the bus' waste tank into a storm drain.
The Sheriff's Department received calls shortly after the incident, but at that point the bus had already left Oakhurst, heading north on Highway 41.
Stuart said a hazardous materials crew was called in and quickly started cleanup work.
"They caught it in time before anything was able to seep into the Fresno River -- at least that's our hope," Stuart said.
There will be follow-up testing to ensure none of the sewage made it into the river, she said.
A representative of Screamline Investment, who declined to give her name, said the company was aware of the situation and had been in contact with the Madera County Sheriff's Department and the state Department of Fish and Game.
The representative wasn't ready to concede that the company's driver was responsible for the illegal dump because the driver hadn't been reached by phone.
"We have not yet verified that this is our driver," the woman said. "We weren't there and we haven't talked to him. There's hundreds of buses that go through there in a day."
But Stuart said company representatives told Sheriff's Department a different story. She said they offered to pay for clean-up costs.
"The bottom line is they are mortified by it," Stuart said.
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