A federal grand jury in Bowling Green, Kentucky, issued an indictment charging Columbia resident Joshua M. Franklin, 32, with violating the Clean Water Act. The charge stems from a 2018 discharge of oil and brine water into Adair County creeks.
Franklin was an operator at an oil lease tank battery in Columbia. His duties included ensuring that brine water, a waste product from oil production, was separated from the oil before it was delivered to customers. The indictment alleges that on Aug. 22, 2018, the oil/water separator at the site used to remove brine water was not functioning. Instead, to remove the brine water, Franklin attached a conduit to the bottom of the oil tank and placed the open end of the conduit yards from a nearby creek. Franklin opened the tank valve, allowing a mixture of brine water and oil to discharge from the tank. With the valve still open, Franklin left the site. As a result, approximately 100 barrels (about 4,000 gallons) of the oily mixture discharged into a nearby creek and eventually flowed into connecting tributaries.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection conducted the investigation. The maximum penalty under the Clean Water Act is three years’ imprisonment and a fine of $250,000. A court may also impose a restitution payment for the costs of the cleanup.
The government is represented by Senior Trial Attorney Daniel Dooher and Trial Attorney Ryan Connors of the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section.
An indictment is only an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven otherwise before a jury at trial.