In Rock Springs, Wyoming, Dominion Energy has fired Adam Roich, an oilfield worker. Adam was doing the right thing over the years by saving ducks and other waterfowl that would get caught in the wastewater ponds at their facilities.
He saved an estimated 50 birds over the years working there and he wasn’t alone as other workers reportedly did so too.
This occurred around 50 miles to the south of Rock Springs in the corporation’s oil tainted waste ponds.
Roich would take the rescued and oil-coated birds back to a company building and thoroughly wash them in Dawn dish soap. After giving them some water and warming them up he’d then release them back to the wild.
“I got fired a couple (of) days before Christmas for rescuing these guys throughout the years,” he posted recently on Facebook above pictures of the birds lives he has saved. “I only did what I thought was right.”
According to a letter from the company to Mr. Roich (reports WyoFile) he was terminated on December 19th of last year after they had investigated his rescuing efforts.
Dominion Energy refused to say why Roich was fired responding with:
“[T]he company has fully complied with the applicable laws and company policies with respect to the individual,” Dominion’s Don Porter, media relations manager, wrote:
“[W]e abide by federal regulations which direct us to notify the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service only in the event of a bird fatality.”
Roich’s heartbreaking description of what he’d see in the ponds hits hard:
“They’d get oil on their feathers,” he said. “They’d just go to the bank and sit there. They’d freeze to death if I didn’t grab them.”
The Canyon Creek energy facilities have four wastewater ponds situated along the southern border of Wyoming with the largest being around the size of a football field according to Roich.
“It’s really toxic water,” he said. “Slicks of oil on them accumulate over time.”
The company porter wrote that there is a net covering the ponds and a “BirdAvert” system in place that uses plastic falcons, falcon screeches, strobe lights, and radar to keep birds away but obviously it’s not very effective.
“The system doesn’t work that well,” said Roich.
Dominion Energy admits the system is “not 100% effective,” and responded that some waterfowl congregate in the toxic ponds anyway.
Workers at the facility had created their own rescue system, said Roich.
“We had a net out there,” he said. “I would just net the duck or grab it. I would take it into our facility, I would wash it. They rode around with me in my truck loving the heat while I worked my ass off.”
When the workday was over Roich would take the clean, warm and hydrated birds to a nearby pond that wasn’t contaminated.
Roich says he contacted wildlife officials that said what he was doing was likely fine. The company has another opinion however saying:
“When this happens, Dominion Energy follows federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act-related regulations, which forbid our employees from retrieving the fowl,” Dominion’s Porter wrote WyoFile.
According to Roich he wasn’t the only worker at the oilfield doing these rescues for the last five years.
“Before I was there they were doing the same thing, others did the same, but it all got pinned on me.”
Federal regulations allow licensed veterinarians to rescue migratory birds without a rehabilitation permit, but they must transfer the birds to an authorized rehabilitator within 24 hours after they are stabilized. Roich believes the energy company could get a permit to rescue the ducks and he even took this to supervisors to try and work within the system.
A supervisor said this past fall that he was no longer allowed to save any more birds, said Roich.
“He recently ordered me to let them die and not touch them,” he wrote on Facebook. After that, “I never touched another duck,” he told WyoFile.
He was put on paid leave for nearly two months he said. “Like I’m some criminal,” he said. He called the episode a two-month ordeal that led up to his firing.
“Then I was terminated.” The bird rescues were the issue, Roich said. “An HR person told me that.”
Dominion’s Porter said the company is following federal regulations.
“We did not create these rules and regulations, but we are committed to adhering to them,” he wrote. “One of Dominion Energy’s core values is ‘ethics,’ which we take seriously — especially pertaining to government regulations concerning our business operations.”
Dominion fired him for violating the company’s code of ethics, Roich said he was told. “I don’t think there’s anything about ducks in the code of ethics,” he said.
The duck rescuer has landed on his feet though getting a job at an auto shop in the area. He is making less money but he says he doesn’t regret the decisions he made that saved so many birds’ lives.