Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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DNR still involved in investigating pollution cases

Quashing talk that the Ohio Division of Wildlife is no longer actively engaged in stream pollution cases, the Ohio DNR defended both agencies’ performance in protecting the environment.

The subject recently bubbled to the surface internally that the Wildlife Division has been ordered to stay away from investigating and enforcing reported stream pollution incidents. This alleged hands-off order was particularly addressed regarding alleged violations involving agricultural practices, hinting that the DNR did not want to rile the state’s powerful farming interests.

Fuel to the fire came recently with the issuance of a press release from the Ohio Attorney General’s office.

That Sept. 20 Ohio Attorney General communique stated that “… a Crawford County man was sentenced for dumping 600 gallons of ammonia-contaminated water that ended up in a local waterway, causing a fish kill.

“Wesley Christman, 62, of Monnett, was ordered to pay a $1,500 fine, complete four years of probation, and not commit any further environmental offenses.”

The release goes on to say that Christman “… then watched the water flow into a storm sewer, knowing the contaminated water would then move into Allen Run, a tributary of the Little Scioto River. The polluted water ultimately caused a fish kill.”

Yet the Ohio Attorney General’s release concluded with the statement “Agents with the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency investigated the case.”

Missing in the whole and in part of the release, though, was the fact that Ohio Division of Wildlife officers were likewise deeply committed to the case.

“The Division of Wildlife was also involved in the Ohio EPA investigation, which was occurring simultaneously, regarding the pollution case. The Ohio EPA pursued charges against the individual involved in the spill and Wildlife staff were prepared to testify in this case,” said DNR spokesman Matt Eiselstein.

Thus, said, Eiselstein, the Wildlife Division similarly investigated the fish kill and subsequently “received $14,451 from the farm co-op involved in this incident.”

Eiselstein said, too, that claims about the Wildlife Division abdicating its pollution investigation activity are untrue, noting that Ohio law still designates that agency as the lead one in such work. That requirement is channeled in chapters 1531 and 1533 of the Ohio Revised Code, stating the agency’s “Pollution Policy” on the subject.

“In addition, the Division of Wildlife was designated in 1968 by the General Assembly to have statewide jurisdiction in the enforcement of the stream litter law. Sections 1531.29 and 3767.32 of the ORC prohibit placing debris in or along streams or lakes. Investigation of wild animals killed by stream pollution and stream litter enforcement are both high-priority programs in the Division,” the “Pollution Policy” document reads as well.

As a result, said Eiselstein, “no duties were transferred,” while the Wildlife Division officers also investigated the fish kill “and collected monies for the investigation and animals killed.”

“They (Wildlife Division officers) also assisted Ohio EPA in the prosecution of the pollution case,” Eiselstein said.

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