20200113 d wyo file duck rescue

A duck warms up inside Adam Roich’s truck after being rescued from an oilfield wastewater pit. According to Roich, Dominion Energy fired him after he saved an estimated 50 waterfowl over the past five years from tainted ponds about 50 miles south of Rock Springs.

Dominion Energy fired an oil field worker in Rock Springs after he saved an estimated 50 waterfowl from wastewater ponds.

Adam Roich said he has rescued about that many waterfowl in the last five years after they landed in tainted ponds at his worksite about 50 miles south of Rock Springs. He would take the oil-slicked birds to a company facility, wash them with Dawn household soap, warm them in his truck, then set them free on clean water, he told WyoFile in an interview.

“I got fired a couple days before Christmas for rescuing these guys throughout the years,” he posted recently on Facebook above many photographs of his avian patients. “I only did what I thought was right.”

Dominion terminated Roich on Dec. 19 for violating company policy, according to a letter obtained by WyoFile. His firing followed an internal investigation, the seven-sentence letter read.

Dominion wouldn’t say why it fired Roich, calling the issue “an internal matter.”

“[T]he company has fully complied with the applicable laws and company policies with respect to the individual,” Dominion’s Don Porter, media relations manager, wrote to WyoFile. “[W]e abide by federal regulations which direct us to notify the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service only in the event of a bird fatality.”

Roich described a sad scene at the water’s edge: “They’d get oil on their feathers,” he said. “They’d just go to the bank and sit there. They’d freeze to death if I didn’t grab them.”

Four ponds, the largest about the size of a football field, dot the Canyon Creek energy field complex along the southern border of the state, Roich said.

“It’s really toxic water,” he said. “Slicks of oil on them accumulate over time.”

A net covers one of them, Dominion’s Porter wrote. A BirdAvert system using radar to deploy plastic falcons, strobes and falcon screeches scares waterfowl away from the others.

“The system doesn’t work that well,” Roich said.

Dominion called the bird-scaring system “not 100% effective” and wrote that some birds alight in the ponds anyway, landing in produced water from natural gas wells — contaminated groundwater that contains gas and other substances.

oil field workers at the Canyon Creek field employed their own rescue system, Roich said.

“We had a net out there,” he said. “I would just net the duck or grab it.

“I would take into our facility,” he said. “I would wash it. They rode around with me in my truck loving the heat while I worked my ass off.”

At the end of the day, Roich would release the rehabilitated ducks in a freshwater pond nearby, he said. Most would fly off.

Roich contacted state wildlife officials who told him what he was doing was probably OK, he said. But Dominion wrote that such rescues by employees are not allowed.

“When this happens, Dominion Energy follows federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act-related regulations, which forbid our employees from retrieving the fowl,” Dominion’s Porter wrote WyoFile.

Roich said other workers had rescued ducks during his five years with the company and beyond.

“Before I was there they were doing the same thing,” he said. “Others did the same, but it all got pinned on me.”

Roich said he tried to work within the system. He believes Dominion could get a permit to handle the ducks, and he told supervisors as much.

Federal regulations allow licensed veterinarians to rescue migratory birds without a rehabilitation permit, but they must transfer the birds to an authorized rehabilitator within 24 hours after they are stabilized.

This fall, a supervisor told Roich not to rescue any more waterfowl, Roich said.

“He recently ordered me to let them die and not touch them,” he wrote on Facebook. After that, “I never touched another duck,” he told WyoFile.

Dominion put him on paid leave for almost two months, Roich said.

“Like I’m some criminal,” he said.

He called the episode a two-month ordeal that led up to his firing.

“Then I was terminated.” Ducks were at issue, Roich said. “An HR person told me that.”

Dominion’s Porter said the company is following federal regulations.

“We did not create these rules and regulations, but we are committed to adhering to them,” he wrote. “One of Dominion Energy’s core values is ‘ethics,’ which we take seriously — especially pertaining to government regulations concerning our business operations.”

Dominion fired him for violating the company’s code of ethics, Roich said he was told.

“I don’t think there’s anything about ducks in the code of ethics,” he said.

Roich has another job in a Rock Springs auto shop, he said, but he isn’t making as much as he used to in the oil patch. He believes he’s made the right decisions.

“I don’t regret it,” he said.

— WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.

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(3) comments

Frank Smith

In 2010, the Political Economy Research Institute ranked Dominion Resources 51st among corporations emitting airborne pollutants in the United States. Dominion's Toxic Score of 16,656 (pounds released x toxicity x population exposure) represents a significant improvement from both the 2008 report (Dominion ranked 27th with a Toxic Score of 58,642) and the 2005 report (Dominion ranked 19th with a Toxic Score of 117,712) In December 2007, a settlement between the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Dominion Energy of Brayton Point called for the company's power generating plant to install new closed cycle cooling towers that provided significant protection to aquatic organisms in Mount Hope Bay, which flows into Narragansett Bay. The 2007 settlement resolved an ongoing dispute that began in 2003. The EPA issued a final discharge permit called a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) for the Brayton Point Power Station requiring significant reductions in thermal discharges to, and water intake from, Mount Hope Bay. In 2002, Dominion was responsible for 1,110,703 pounds of gastrointestinal or liver toxicant emissions, 1,440,000 pounds of musculoskeletal toxicant emissions, and 1,489,763 pounds of suspected respiratory toxicant emissions, and 1,478,383 pounds of suspected skin or sense organ toxicant emissions among other emissions that are suspected to be hazardous.

Grant Spellerberg

If they wanted to punish him they should have just docked his pay if he was on the clock. Another reason people get pissed at energy companies.

Diane Halpin

The employee did the right thing and the company was very wrong to fire him. Judie’s to the guy and I hope he soon earns a better job.

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