Man charged in South Franklin oil spill
A South Franklin Township man was arrested Tuesday for allegedly causing oil to be dumped into a pond on a South Franklin Township farm owned by Consol Energy earlier this year.
Robert Joseph Sparks, 23, of 1610 S Bridge Road, is charged by the state attorney general’s office with violating rules and regulation to protect water supplies, unlawful conduct, theft and criminal mischief for the May 15 incident at Leatherwood Farm, 605 Bethel Church Road, South Franklin. Special agents for the attorney general’s office environmental crimes section filed the complaint against Sparks Friday at the office of District Judge Ethan Ward and obtained the arrest warrant Monday.
Sparks, accompanied by attorney Joseph M. Yablonski, turned himself in for arraignment at the office of District Judge Robert Redlinger.
Consol leases the home and barn to Brian Crispin. Investigators said that Sparks had been dating Crispin’s daughter and sometimes stayed at the home.
The Washington County Hazardous Materials Team set up a boom to prevent the oil from going any further after it was noticed, Jeff Yates, director of emergency services, said Tuesday.
The one-acre pond on the property feeds into an unnamed tributary of Ten Mile Creek. State police were also called to the scene.
“There was a significant amount of oil in the water,” Yates said.
The state Department of Environmental Protection and Consol then made arrangements to have the site cleaned, Yates added.
Trooper Ryan Deems, who responded, told agents that one to two inches of oil was floating on the surface of the pond. Deems saw a rope that was used to pull a large metal tank from the ground. He also saw oil on the ground where the tank once stood. When the tank was removed, it was placed in the pond and the oil that remained spilled into the water.
The tank was eventually found near some shrubbery. It had been cut in half and caught fire.
When Deems talked with Sparks, he told the trooper he noticed the tank in the pond and pulled it from the water. Sparks told the trooper he saw the oil discharging from the tank but did not see torch marks.
Special Agent William F. Brown talked to Jacob Donahue, who said that Sparks invited him to fish at the pond, according to court documents.
Donahue told the agent he asked Sparks if he knew who caused the spill and Sparks allegedly acknowledged he was responsible, saying he pulled the tank with a strap. The strap broke and the tank rolled into the pond. Sparks reportedly admitted to Donahue that he wanted to sell the tank as scrap.
In a subsequent interview, Sparks told the trooper that since the tank was going to rust into the ground, he did not see the harm in cutting it up for scrap. He also admitted to the trooper that he knew there was oil in the tank. A representative of Consol told Brown that the tank was functional and was valued at $1,200. Sparks was released on $5,000 unsecured bond. A preliminary hearing is set for Oct. 29 before Ward.