LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - He came to WKYT to apologize for what he did. A man working for a natural gas company in Eastern Kentucky claims he dumped countless numbers of harmful pollutants into the Big Sandy River. He says his bosses told him to, so he told the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Big Sandy snakes through eastern Kentucky, acting as the natural divide between our state and West Virginia. You can call it scenic, serene, and now, polluted.
"I'm not a green tree hugger or nothing, but I knew that it was wrong, and it would kill me every load I put in it, said Deno Miller, who described in detail the fracking water he would dump into the Big Sandy after using it to extract natural gas. He says it came out of a rig on a property right outside Louisa. He told us it was water his employer, Eagle Well Service, was supposed to recycle, treat, or bury in a disposal well.
"The first load I was guilty as they were. I put my first load in the creek just down the road. Gray, slimy water. I was tore up all day. I told my truck boss I was gonna quit if I had to do it again, so he made it a little easier on me I guess by telling me to put it in the pit by the river," Miller claimed.
"You can't just dump the water that you got from a well out onto the ground or into the environment because it's not just water. The key environmental concern is that the fluid they use to inject into the well for fracking, it includes several other chemicals," notes the University of Kentucky's Dr. Audrey Sawyer, "the things that are impacted range from frogs to fish to people who are swimming or drinking downstream."
The Big Sandy stretches through several towns, around 30 miles of northeastern Kentucky land. When the state came out to investigate Miller's claims they say they smelled strong petroleum and chloride odors in the area, and they saw a very visible sheen in the water. They issued violations on the spot to three men they say are responsible. Jack Justice, Jordan Keene, and Russell Parsons all received a Notice of Violation from the state's Department of Environmental Protection.
Russell Parsons is the man who owns the business cited on the violations, Eagle Well Service. Its headquarters is listed at a home address in Salyersville.
In a 15-minute conversation, Parsons claimed our whistle blower was actually an extortionist. Parsons said Miller wanted $50,000 out of him, and when Parsons didn't pay, Miller dumped water where it's not allowed. After repeated requests for the Eagle Well Service owner to talk on camera, Parsons declined
We asked Miller about the extortion claims. He said when he quit, he asked for backpay owed for working overtime.
The EPA has cited Russell Parsons and Eagle Well Service in the past. In 2009, they made him pay almost $2,700 because he was late performing a required mechanical integrity demonstration on a well. Those demonstrations are the most common way to show a well isn't leaking, contaminating, or polluting underground sources of drinking water.
Miller says he went to the EPA back in April, after months of illegal dumping. May 1, 2013, the state issued violations, but the violations have yet to be enforced. When we called the Kentucky Division of Enforcement, they hadn't approved actual enforcement of the issued violations. So far no one has approved enforcement or assessed penalties. We're told the case is currently under review. The next step is to interview parties named in the case.
The Kentucky Oil & Gas Association issued their own statement in regards to the violations -
"While regulators are still sorting out the facts related to this specific allegation of an un-permitted discharge of water, Kentucky’s oil and gas operators are strongly committed to fully complying with the law and ensuring our environment and waterways are protected.”