When Adam Roich was terminated from his job at Dominion Energy he had no doubt in his mind it was because he had saved about 50 waterfowl birds from wastewater ponds.
Roich said the company cited other reasons for his termination, which he didn’t want to discuss, but believes the real reason for his termination was because he saved birds. Roich was officially terminated Dec. 19.
Dominion Manager of Media Relations, Don Porter, said the company wouldn’t comment on the specifics of Roich’s termination, but the company would release a statement to SweetwaterNOW.
“The company may take disciplinary action, up to and including termination, when employees violate federal and state laws or company policy. We do not terminate employees for properly handling wildlife,” Dominion stated.
According to Roich, over a five-year period he and other employees at the plant had been saving waterfowl from evaporation ponds located at the Canyon Creek facility about 50 miles from Rock Springs.
“There’s been several us of (who) rescued them and washed them,” Roich said.
Even though other employees were involved, none of them were terminated. Roich said about two months ago, when the company asked him to stop because his efforts could cause the company to have legal issues, he did. He didn’t save another bird after he was told to stop. Roich said he didn’t understand why the company was making the change because he had previously been complimented for his efforts.
“The whole company commended us for taking care of the ducks,” he said.
The Cleaning Process
Roich described the process he and other employees used to capture, clean and release the birds.
When he would find the birds they were soaking wet and covered in oil.
“It’s nasty water that comes up with the oil and gas,” Roich said.
Not only does the water contain oil, but toxic chemicals. The birds features were matted and separated from the oil, which leaves the bird flightless and vulnerable to the elements.
When he would see a bird trapped in the pond, Roich would catch it with a net, wash it with Dawn dish soap and then place it in his truck so it could dry off. Usually, after work, when the birds were dry, he would take them to a natural water source and release them. Sometimes he’d only save one or two, while at other times, he would save five or more.
Roich said he would usually hang out and watch the birds for a bit after he released them into the fresh water source to make sure they were OK.
“They would usually hang out at that freshwater source and eventually fly away,” Roich said. “I had a couple of them that died, but for the majority of them, they seemed to fly away.”
One thing Roich noticed with his bird-saving efforts, was a bird’s survival rate was determined by how long they were left in the pond.
“The longer they were in those ponds, the worse off they were,” he said.
Roich said even though he’s been terminated by Dominion, he still wants those birds to be saved. In his opinion, there are birds landing in those ponds that would fall under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. He said he also understands that people aren’t supposed to be touching wildlife, but the company can obtain permits to capture, rehabilitate and then release the birds back into the wild.
“As for the birds that land on the ponds, we abide by federal regulations which direct us to notify the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service only in the event of a bird fatality,” Dominion stated. “We did not create these rules and regulations, but we are committed to adhering to them. One of Dominion Energy’s core values is ‘ethics,’ which we take seriously – especially pertaining to government regulations concerning our business operations.”
Roich said he doesn’t understand how Jim Bridger and the trona mines can have bird-saving programs and Dominion doesn’t.
According to Roich, Dominion does have a BirdAvert system in place at Canyon Creek.
“There is a system in place to deter the ducks and birds, but it doesn’t always work,” he said.
Dominion acknowledges its system isn’t full proof.
“BirdAvert is not 100 percent effective, and some birds do land in the ponds which contain produced water from our natural gas production wells,” Dominion stated. “When this happens, Dominion Energy follows federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act-related regulations, which forbid our employees from retrieving the fowl.”
“To protect birds around our Dominion Energy Wexpro produced-water evaporation facilities, we have covered one facility with netting to keep birds and other wildlife from entering it,” Dominion stated. “At three other facilities, we cooperated with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local regulatory agencies to adopt the BirdAvert system. BirdAvert uses radar to detect birds and then deploys oversized plastic falcons, strobes, and falcon vocals to deter birds from approaching.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Cheyenne office was contacted in regards to information about what regulations companies have to follow, but they didn’t respond yet.