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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Ohio

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Monroe County Company, Owner Plead Guilty To Discharging Wastewater Into A Tribuary Of The Little Muskingum River

CONTACT: Fred Alverson
Public Affairs Officer

COLUMBUS – Robert D. Armstrong, 54, of New Matamoras, Ohio, 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 in 2010.  Mr. Armstrong also pled guilty on behalf of his company, RCA Oil and Gas LLC (“RCA Oil and Gas”), which was charged with the same offense.

Carter M. Stewart, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Randall K. Ashe, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), Scott J. Nally, Director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) and James Zehringer, Director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) announced the guilty pleas entered yesterday before U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson.

Mr. Armstrong is the owner and operator of RCA Oil and Gas which provides services for oil and gas wells in southeast Ohio, including the services related to the hydrofracturing or “fracking” of oil and gas wells.

During June 2010, Armstrong built a reservoir with an earthen wall to hold water he intended to use in the fracking process of a nearby well. The reservoir contained approximately 2.2 million gallons of fresh water.  Armstrong 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.

On June 19, 2010, Armstrong used a backhoe to breach a wall of the reservoir, releasing 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. Analysis of a sample of the wastewater from the reservoir showed significant concentrations of barium and sodium.

"As the nation increases its use of natural gas, exploration companies must ensure that the waste water resulting from the fracking process is treated and disposed of safely and legally," said Randall Ashe, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Ohio.  “The defendant knowingly released hundreds of thousands of gallons of contaminated wastewater into a tributary of the Little Muskingum River, 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.”

Stewart commended the cooperative investigation by the U.S. EPA, the Ohio EPA, the ODNR and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Environmental Enforcement Unit in Ohio Attorney General DeWine’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Marous is representing the government in this case.

Judge Watson will schedule a date for sentencing.

Updated July 23, 2015