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Press Release

Two Lyon County Men Sentenced for Causing 3,900-Gallon Oil Spill into Yellow Medicine River

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS – Two Lyon County men have each been sentenced to one year of probation and ordered to pay $1,138,772.06 in restitution for causing thousands of gallons of oil to spill into the Yellow Medicine River.

According to court documents, on April 24, 2019, Eric Jay Weckwerth-Pineda, 25, of Cottonwood, Minnesota, and Tanner John Sik, 21, of Ivanhoe, Minnesota, traveled to the northwest side of Cottonwood Lake in Lyon County to a bridge that spans a dam between Cottonwood Lake and a creek called Judicial Ditch 24, which flows into the Yellow Medicine River. Weckwerth-Pineda and Sik took guns to the bridge to shoot. Sik used a DPMS AR-15 rifle to fire multiple shots at a diesel fuel pipeline that runs perpendicular across Judicial Ditch 24. Weckwerth-Pineda used the scope on his own rifle to spot Sik’s shots. Weckwerth-Pineda and Sik admit at least one shot struck and ruptured the pipe. Later that day, Weckwerth-Pineda and Sik returned to the area and saw that the pipeline was leaking and reported the leak to the authorities.

According to court documents, the owner of the pipeline, Magellan Midstream Partners, L.P., claimed that the pipe’s rupture caused at least 3,906 gallons of diesel fuel to spill into Judicial Ditch 24 at a cost of approximately $1,122,617.64 to clean up the spill and repair the pipeline. The Environmental Protection Agency also expended $16,154.42 in assisting in the clean-up operation.

“We hope that today’s sentencings cause people to think twice before engaging in irresponsible and reckless behavior in the vicinity of an active pipeline,” said Andrea M. Kropf, Special Agent-in-Charge, Midwestern Region, U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General. “Working with our federal law enforcement and prosecutorial partners, we will continue our vigorous efforts to protect the safety and integrity of the pipeline transportation system, as well as our nation’s natural resources and environment.”

This case was the result of an investigation conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Transportation Office of the Inspector General, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office, and the Lyon County Attorney’s Office.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily A. Polachek.

Updated October 7, 2021