(WOIO) - A two-count criminal information was filed charging an Ohio man with discharging well drilling waste into Beecher Brook, a tributary of the Chagrin River, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
James L. Hidey, 45, of Dover, Ohio, in 2008 worked for Great Plains Exploration, an oil and gas well drilling company based in Northeast Ohio. On two separate occasions in 2008, Hidey directed the discharge of brine into a stormwater sewer after the completion of gas wells in Mayfield Heights and Highland Heights. The brine flowed from the stormwater sewers into Beecher Brook and eventually into the Chargrin River, according to the information.
Brine is water with a high quantity of salt dissolved into it and is used during the drilling phase of the well installation. It must be handled and disposed of properly because of the toxicity of brine.
"Clean, fresh water is our greatest resource in Northern Ohio," Dettelbach said. "We will aggressively investigate and prosecute cases in which people pollute Ohio's streams, rivers and lakes."
"Dumping toxic substances like brine into sewers and rivers can be extremely harmful to the environment and a real threat to Ohio families," said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. "We will continue to work with our task force partners to enforce environmental protection laws and hold violators accountable."
"Our natural resources must be protected," said Randall K. Ashe, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. EPA's criminal enforcement program in Ohio. "We will continue to investigate and refer for prosecution anyone who commits crimes against the environment."
This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Brad J. Beeson, following an investigation by the U.S. EPA Criminal Investigation Division, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, all members of the Northeast Ohio Environmental Crimes Task Force.
An information is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.