I was dwelling upon my evisceration of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MoDNR) and the Missouri Department of Conservation-a well deserved evisceration for their overt support or inaction in supporting a pipeline leak, failure to properly remediate the contaminated stream bed and the ten years of fish kills.
The term "Inspector General Report" has been in the media often this summer and I realized that I had unfairly failed to speak the other enablers of the ten year ecological disaster in the O'Day Branch Creek.
I had failed to speak of disappointing & devastating actions of the EPA and the EPA inspector General.
Failure by the EPA, MoDNR and the Missouri Department of Conservation. This was the gravel in the O'Day Creek from the first clean up attempt till the final stream remediation ten years later.
Inspector General found nothing wrong?!?!
Please understand that once upon a time I had a positive opinion of any "Inspector General"
Being in the USAF at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Patrick Air Force Base, it was always amazing the FEAR the very letters "IG" caused.
The Officers & NCOs knew their very careers depended on passing the Inspector General reviews. Very impressive the terror these inspectors caused.
Then working at the space center one of my co-workers had been on the traveling USAF IG team and told me a lot of stories. A lot of positive stories, because my co worker took great pride in his time with the IG.
So when I heard that the EPA Inspector General was reviewing the O'Day creek pipeline leak investigation & our complaints; I was elated.
FINNALLY THERE WOULD BE SOME JUSTICE, not the stalling that the Missouri Department of Natural Resources had perfected to protect the oil company.
Some of this is talked about in my "Hidden History of O'Day Park page"
The MoDNR overtly supported a giant oil company when their pipeline spilled approximately 68,000 gallons into the O'Day Branch Creek in eastern Missouri.
The oil company claimed only one thousand gallons of petroleum product leaked into the creek and subsequently recovered all but 42 gallons (one drum)
Nine years later, the massive amount of petroleum was still in the O'Day Creek however the EPA Inspector General? "Nothing to see here" even after the 40 truck loads of tarry gravel had been removed.
"See no evil" when you are owned by an oil giant.
Failure of the Inspector General of the Environmental Protection Agency and others.
The MoDNR had failed by not enforcing their own regulations on contamination levels in the O'Day Branch Creek (overt support of the oil company) and the Missouri Department of Conservation had allowed TEN years of fish kills into their own wildlife area (passive support of the oil company)
Forgive me for my language, but "Rotten Bastards" are the words that come to mind.
We used our own money to pay for a FOI & a review of the NEIC report.
(the Inspector General could not be bothered)
The official report? There had been TWO pipeline leaks! A long term slow leak and the leak that everyone noticed: 68,000 gallons spilled into the O'Day creek.
The IG? "No problem here" said the G-men
In comes the Calvery, bugles blaring. The EPA to save the environment.
The First EPA agent arrived the day after the fuel spill from the pipeline leak.
Word had been received from the Office of Pipeline Safety about the leak.
The oil company had to report the leak as a Federal requirement & the EPA agent arrived on our farm as the Oil Company cut our fences and ground our horse pastures to a fine dust.
In later years we proved--- using the oil company's own records that at least 68,000 gallons of petroleum product had spilled into the O'Day creek.
The oil company however had reported that 998 gallons had leaked into the creek (and killing everything for miles)
Note: "1000" gallons is the threshold of when the leak goes from being a minor spill to a major "Shut down the pipeline" leak.
Any federal EPA agent not an idiot or not on the oil fund dole would have raised an issue with the convenient forty two gallons measurement short of a major spill. At least I would been alerted.
The Oil company recovered all but 42 gallons of pipeline product. The MoDNR signed off that the stream was clean (the oil company was free to leave. Thank you for your service.)
That was the First of the NINE legal (recorded) spill remediation attempts and at least one illegal remediation attempt (fish kill) by the oil company. Ten years of fish kills total.
Fish kill? You mean fish could not live through this?
Sadly the EPA agent wrote in his report, "That the spill looked like a 998 gallon spill."
In later investagions he admitted, he could only offer an opinion of what a 998 spill looked like. He could in no way offer any advice on what was actually leaked.
The agent filed his report with the St. Louis Office of the EPA & washed his hand of the event. As long as the oil company is happy, everyone is happy.
To be fair: Working at the space center part of my duties was the proper disposal of hazardous wastes and the training and certifications that comes along with that task. This included state and federal inspections.
In the classroom it was explained that is always better to work with organizations to be complainant as opposed to being the 'enemy'.
Consequently as I watched the pipeline debacle & death of the O'Day Branch Creek I was very well aware that the EPA, the MODNR and Missouri Department of Conservation were trying to be friends with the oil company and not be the antagonistic enemy. Having said that to be fair, it is also evident that the oil company owned two of three of those inspecting organizations.
As mentioned, the original EPA agent filed his report with the St. Louis Office of the EPA & washed his hand of the event.
As the years passed, the fish kills continued, the black petroleum continued to bubble from the O'Day Creek and the MoDNR continued to dither.
We filed complaint after complaint. The DNR management hated us! Simple peasants who did not know their place.
At last our efforts led us to Kansas City and the headquarters of the Region 7 division of the EPA.
Protector of the Midwest.
As their web page state: EPA Region 7 protects human health and the environment in our nation’s Heartland.
The EPA Region 7 administrator reviewed our complaints and found our complaints were without merit.
He was unfazed that the MoDNR was not enforcing their own contamination regulations or that the Missouri Department of Conservation was unconcerned by the continuing fish kills. (What's a few thousand bluegill and catfish after all?) He had no comment about our dog that died of throat cancer.
The EPA Region 7 administrator, as did the Office of the Governor of Missouri: Ran us away with threats as we were simple unlearned & unwashed peasants.
What right did we have to question the initial report of the EPA agent and the official report from the oil company?
We were just the ignorant peasant class fouling his air conditioned office space. "Dam it. What was with these Missouri hicks?" he might have said.
And of course the overall EPA goal is to be friends with oil company. Not the enemy. The goal to obtain a lucrative job with the oil giant after retiring from government service.
Unwashed peasants are stubborn.
We went as far as directly contacting the EPA's "NEIC" National Enforcement Investigative Center.
Unlike the popular Televisions shows about dedicated investigation professionals, the good folks at the NEIC were hostile. How had we gotten their phone number? (From a State Senator)
However the NEIC did look into our complaints.....And found nothing wrong with the ten years of continuous fish kills from the "two gallons" of product remaining in the O'Day.
The NEIC method of investigation?
Call up the oil company and ask if there were any problems.
The oil company's response? "42 gallons in the O'Day"
The EPA Inspector General
Of course we were running out of heroes. We had NO "Protects human health and the environment in our nation’s Heartland" savior.
Our animals had died. The wildlife had died. Birds died as well as the oaks and maples along the pipeline leak (from the few gallons of fuel remaining in the creek.) The O'Day was a dead stream. Parts of the conservation area were dead.
By the time we filed an official complaint with the Office of the EPA Inspector General we had been through FIVE major petroleum remediation attempts as well as introduction of petroleum eating microbes (The microbes were another failed MoDNR attempt to stop the fish kills in the O'Day Creek)
Thank you Missouri Department of Conservation for protecting your wildlife area. (The O'Day Branch flows into August Busch Wildlife Area & Dardenne Creek. Not a word about the fish kills in Dardenne Creek or the O'Day)
Admission of my naivety.
My time in the USAF had shown me that the IG was an organization that sought out and corrected corruption and when needed corrected stupidity & waste.
Of course any IG office would question "FIVE remediation attempts for 42 gallons of spilled product?"
However we were truly naïve about the bond between the oil companies and the government (we are after all only ignorant peasants)
And so we were devastated when the official EPA inspector General Report came back that there was ONLY 42 gallons of petroleum remaining in the O'Day and our complaints were unfounded.
The oil company had done nothing wrong. The EPA had done nothing wrong. In fact they were rather proud of their efforts!
Off course some wildlife had to perish. Your pets?
Did I say Rotten bastards before? (excuse my language)
First I want to thank the DNR & EPA for all the wonderful propaganda, very entertaining and informative that is posted electronically and in print.
Gives me great faith in our overlords. We are after all only the unwashed, unlearned peasants who depend on the organizations that prey on us and the environment.
Though disillusioned with our overlords and burdened with defeat after defeat, as mentioned our visit to the Office of the Governor of Missouri resulted in our rude eviction from Jefferson City but also Sixth clean up of the O'Day. And again another remediation clean up the following year. (So I might be losing track of who requested each failed petroleum remediation.)
MoDNR consistently ignored their own readings & regulations. AND ignored the contamination levels recorded by the companies hired at great expense.
Only, ONLY when the oil company was purchased by a larger oil giant was person sent to solve our endless complaints.
Almost ten years after the initial pipeline leak, that is ten years of winter floods that migrated an unknown amount of petroleum product into Busch Wildlife Area. Thank you Missouri Department of Conservation for protecting your wildlife area.
Almost ten years after the initial pipeline leak, the new company funded the Eighth and final remediation.
Forty dump truck loads of black tarry gravel was removed from the O'Day Branch Creek.
Forty dump truck loads EPA Inspector General. ("Nothing to see here" said the IG)
With the removal of the contaminated gravels, for some unknown reasons, the fish stopped dying in the O'Day Branch and Dardenne Creek.
I have to admit that my family and I are just stubborn peasants. But could there be a relationship between the forty truck loads of black tar gooey gravel and the fish dying in the creek?
I AM GOING OUT ON A LIMB AND SAY TO THE EPA, DNR, DOT & OFFICE OF PIPELINE SAFETY "Well I will be darned" What could have stopped the wildlife from dying?"
Did I say rotten bastards before? (excuse my language)
Forgot to mention, the new oil company closed "forever" the aging leaking pipeline.
Finally Note: my disgust and dismay with the EPA made me think: What other areas of the ancient pipeline & unreported leakage had they whitewashed?
That is why at the end of the my page on the Weldon Springs abandoned uranium/yellow cake plant-do I bring up the MISSING REFINERY AND TANK THAT USED TO SIT ON THE HIGHWAY. How much of the refinery was just hidden from sight with the help of heavy equipment?
The O'Day creek is cleaned from the Petroleum disaster.
The petroleum sits under the gravels of Busch Wildlife Area.....However the O'Day is now a victim of silt flooding from the new O'Day Park constructed on top of the old pipeline route.
In conclusion: The Missouri Department of Conservation is awarding the O'Fallon park $30,000 to create a natural prairie (also known as overflow parking for the O'Day park concerts) now that the creek does not reek of a petroleum refinery.
Thank you Missouri Department of Conservation for your concern and dedication about the prairie but ah, what about the chocolate milk silt laden runoff that now flows from the new park?
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My book on Florida history:
Struggle for the northern frontier and other lost tales of old Florida