Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Game Warden Files--Environmental Crimes

Fish and wildlife was the fun part of being an EnCon Officer; but the law also includes any number of environmental issues, most of which are not much fun to deal with. It's hard to have fun staking out a landfill, though we made a good case against one by putting dye into garbage bags that had been put at the curb and then following garbage truck by using telemetry.  We found the truck at the landfill, located the dyed garbage, recovered our transmitter and charged the landfill operator with taking unpermitted waste. That was a long day involving about 6 officers to make it work; but a good case and worth the effort

Most environmental cases were not terribly satisfying but I had some success with some water pollution cases which caused some pretty big fish kills. Early one evening I had a call from the Sheriff's Office that a member of the fire department in Gloversville had seen some dead fish in the Cayadutta Creek and had found what he thought to be the source of the problem: a storm sewer outlet right behind the fire house. That was the beginning of the dead fish and they could smell the slight odor of ammonia.

By the time I got there, they had pulled up the maps and we were able to trace the path of the storm sewer, checking every storm drain along the line. We found a slight flow of water coming across a parking lot and followed that to its source, which was a refrigeration unit that cooled a large commercial manufacturing operation. The cooling unit ran on ammonia which froze an ice bank that cooled the process.  A leak had developed which poured the ammonia into the water. To repair the leak, they had drained the system, which was now a highly concentrated ammonia solution. They drained it on the ground and it had made it to the creek in a sufficient quantity to kill every fish for about 3 miles! 

We got the owner to respond and he was mortified at what had happened. He was not only the owner of the problem, he was a past-president of Trout Unlimited and had been involved in restoring the trout population to the Cayadutta Creek. He understood that there would be a penalty, but was there a way to make this a "win-win" situation?  I wrote him an administrative ticket--something we often did with environmental crimes so we had a better control on the outcome of the case. 

By the time his appearance date came we had a pretty good solution worked out.  The company would agree to a substantial fine with most of it suspended if they re-stocked the creek.  I hooked them up with a 4H group that was a fishing club and they ordered the fish.  I believe we stocked about 3000 trout that day and the local newspaper did a nice article about it.  We were able to make it a win-win thanks to a responsible business owner who was willing to address the problem. 

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