Washington Co. Man Pleads Guilty To Clean Water Act Violation

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A Washington County man and the oil and gas company that he represents have pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act by causing wastewater from oil and gas wells to flow into a tributary of the Little Muskingum River.

Robert D. Armstrong, 54, of New Matamoras, pleaded guilty Monday to the 2010 incident in U.S. District Court, and also pleaded guilty on behalf of RCA Oil and Gas LLC, a Monroe County company that was charged with the same offense. The company provides services for oil and gas wells in Southeast Ohio.   

"The defendant knowingly released hundreds of thousands of gallons of contaminated wastewater into a tributary of the Little Muskingum Water, damaging critical habitat for fish and wildlife. Companies and their contractors who try to skirt the law to save money undermine our efforts to protect the public and the environment and will be vigorously prosecuted," said Randall Ashe, a special agent in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency's criminal enforcement program in Ohio.

According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, Armstrong built a reservoir in June 2010 with an earthen wall to hold water he intended to use in the hydraulic fracturing process of a nearby well. The reservoir contained approximately 2.2 million gallons of fresh water.

Armstong then added thousands of gallons of brine or wastewater from the fracking process at two other oil and gas wells to the reservoir. As a result of the addition, all of the liquid in the reservoir was classified as oil field wastewater.

The U.S. Attorney's office says Armstrong used a backhoe to breach a wall of the reservoir on June 19, 2010, and released the wastewater into Rockcamp Run. The reservoir contained about 800,000 gallons of wastewater at the time.

Most of the water flowed into Rockcamp Run, and an analysis of a sample of the wastewater from the reservoir showed significant concentrations of barium and sodium. 

A date has not yet been set for Armstrong's sentencing hearing.