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SHELL PAYS $20,000 FOR BIRD DEATHS
______________________________ Forward Header __________________________________
For Immediate Release Contact: Paul Beiriger 847-298-3250 x 107
March 30, 1998 E:mail: Paul_Beiriger@mail.fws.gov
EA98-28 Georgia Parham 812-334-4261 x 203
SHELL PAYS $20,000 FOR BIRD DEATHS
An Illinois company has agreed to pay $20,000 for its role in killing protected
migratory birds, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Shell Wood
River Refining Company, near Wood River, Illinois, agreed to the penalty after
Service law enforcement agents documented and recovered the remains of at least
40 protected bird species from the company's exposed oil waste impoundments.
The $20,000 paid by Shell will be earmarked to the North American Wetlands
"One of the Service's highest priorities is safeguarding this country's precious
migratory birds," said Bill Hartwig, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional
Director. "I am proud that our law enforcement efforts are bringing harmful
facilities like this one to light. Using the monies obtained from these cases
to benefit our wildlife, we are able to turn a bad situation into a positive
opportunity for migratory birds and their habitat."
Agents were alerted to the hazard after viewing aerial photographs that showed
two large areas of exposed oil and oil waste at the facility, which is located
in Madison County near the Mississippi River. An on-the-ground investigation in
October 1996 turned up remains of birds at the two sites. Several live,
oil-covered birds were also found but had to be euthanized due to the toxic
effects of the oil. Birds caught or killed in the impoundment included mourning
doves, songbirds, and several species of waterfowl, including the
state-threatened pied-billed grebe.
The investigation that followed found that Shell was aware of the threats their
impoundments posed to migratory birds. Information was discovered that bird
deaths caused by oil impoundments at the facility had been documented as far
back as 1983. Prior to October 1996, birds such as great horned owls, kestrels,
Canada geese, great blue herons, wood ducks, mallards and pied-billed grebes had
succumbed to the lethal effects of the impoundments.
Oil pits are indiscriminate killers of wildlife, according to Service Special
Agent Paul Beiriger, who investigated the Shell case. The most common victims
are birds which mistake the impoundments for open expanses of water in which to
rest or feed. If left open and uncovered, oil pits act as magnets to birds,
bats, small mammals, and other wildlife.
At Shell's Site 15, Beiriger and his colleagues found a 32-foot-deep impoundment
covering about 1 million square feet, a third of which was covered with oil.
The impoundment was not covered nor were other measures taken to exclude
wildlife. Oiled remains of more than a dozen birds were found in and near Site
15. Several live oiled birds were also found but had to be euthanized
at the site because of their poor condition.
Agents also found a large area previously used for asphalt waste disposal where
liquefied oil sludge was attracting, then entrapping, birds.
"This area was like a giant piece of flypaper," Beiriger said. "Birds were
flying in and literally sticking to the surface." The agents found the remains
of 27 birds at the asphalt disposal site but were only able to retrieve 23 of
them. Two live birds were found stuck to the asphalt material, but agents were
able to retrieve only one.
Since Beiriger's investigation, the Environmental Protection Agency, acting
under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, has ordered Shell to implement
emergency measures at the facility to protect migratory birds from exposed oil.
At least 120,000 gallons of oil have reportedly been removed from Site 15. The
asphalt disposal area has been filled in and covered, but leaks at both sites
continue to threaten birds. In September of 1997, one breach at the site
was responsible for the death of at least one red-tailed hawk and three mourning
Most of the birds found dead or injured at the Shell site are protected by the
Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a Federal law aimed at conserving raptors, songbirds,
waterfowl, shorebirds, and other bird species. The act carries penalties of up
to $10,000 for each violation.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the primary Federal agency responsible for
conservation and protection of fish, wildlife, and their habitats. The agency,
under the Department of the Interior, enforces Federal wildlife laws with a
force of 200 special agents, manages migratory bird populations, some fish
populations, and threatened and endangered species, and conserves and restores
wildlife habitat. The Service manages over 500 national wildlife refuges
covering 92 million acres, as well as 72 national fish hatcheries. For further
information about the programs and activities of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service in the Great Lakes-Big Rivers Region, please visit our HomePage at:
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Subject: SHELL PAYS $20,000 FOR BIRD DEATHS
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