Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Lee K. Nelson, July 7, 1989

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:05 - A biographical overview

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Partial Transcript: This is an unrehearsed interview with Lee K. Nelson on July 7th, 1989 in Owensboro, Kentucky.

Segment Synopsis: Nelson discusses his education and work history, including the universities he attended, degrees he earned, and organizations he worked for.

Keywords: Botany; Chief biologists; Chief of Research; Deer; Department of Conservation; Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources; Diseases; Division of Game and Fish; Land Acquisition Project; Michigan; Navy; Pheasants; Ring Neck Pheasants; Soils; Wildlife Management; World War II

Subjects: Education, Higher; Environmentalism; Higher education; Michigan State University; Nature Conservancy (U.S.); Wildlife conservation.

00:07:03 - Oil pollution in Daviess and Henderson Counties

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Partial Transcript: The first question that I was going to ask you, uh, was to tell your major involvements in environmental protection work...

Segment Synopsis: Nelson talks about his discovery of oil pollution while hunting in Daviess and Henderson County bottoms. He describes in detail three issues with oil pipelines, containment, and separation.

Keywords: 1955; Bottoms; Flood plains; Floods; Green River Valley; Kentucky; Ohio River Valley; Oil pollution; Pipelines; Pumps; Salt water; Swamp rabbits; Wildlife biologists

Subjects: Daviess County (Ky.); Hazardous wastes; Henderson County (Ky.); Pollution.; Water quality.

00:17:59 - Cases of oil pollution that resulted in minimal fines

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Partial Transcript: What, what do you mean when you say the fines were minimal?

Segment Synopsis: Nelson gives a detailed description of oil and chemical waste dumping into the Ohio River and the minimal fines assessed to the violators.

Keywords: Barrels; Chemical waste; Ditches; Dumps; Fisherman; Judge Pat Tanner; Ohio River; Oil; Overflows; Ponds; Runoff; Tanks; Wells

Subjects: Daviess County (Ky.); Hazardous wastes; Pollution.; Water quality.

00:22:42 - Henderson County oil pollution from Standard Oil of Ohio

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Partial Transcript: But, uh, all this was kinda the--I'm leading up it, the background of the problem.

Segment Synopsis: Nelson talks about oil pollution in Henderson County and the oil company that was responsible. He talks about the turn to news publicity for a solution.

Keywords: April 6, 1969 article; Bottoms; Department of Fish and Wildlife; Exposure; Flood water; Fred Hardy; Fred Louigart Jr.; Ginny Hole; Joe Brunin; Louisville Courier Journal; Media; Newspaper articles; Newspapers; Oil; Pipelines; Salt water; Standard Oil of Ohio (Sohio); Wetlands

Subjects: Hazardous wastes; Henderson County (Ky.); Pollution.; Water quality.

00:33:18 - Channelization problems in Kentucky waterways

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Partial Transcript: What is this channelization problem?

Segment Synopsis: Nelson describes how the process of cutting timber creates clogs in streams and rivers. Channelization creates higher water temperatures and dredges bottoms.

Keywords: Channelization; Clogged; Cutting; Department of Fish and Wildlife; Ditches; Dredge; Floods; High water; Rivers; Streams; Water temperature

Subjects: Effluent quality; Logging; Pollution.; Timber; Water quality.

00:36:31 - Introducing legislation to create solutions to pollution

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Partial Transcript: And then, uh, we finally--this was all kind of an evolution process.

Segment Synopsis: Nelson gives an account of how he, the Kentucky Audubon Society, and the Legislative Research Commission developed pollution prohibition legislation. He talks about why HB 328 was defeated.

Keywords: Bottomlands; Clean-up funds; Department of Fish and Wildlife; Division of Water; House Bill 328 (HB 328); John Fransom; Kentucky Audubon Council; Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS); Nicholas Gafauglus; Oil; Oil spills; Ponds; Victor Hellard Jr.; Warren County (Ky.)

Subjects: Conservation of natural resources--Law and legislation; Environmental law.; Environmental protection; Hazardous wastes; Pollution.; Water quality.

00:48:27 - Experiementing on rabbits to assess pollution

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Partial Transcript: And, uh, so we devised a little study...

Segment Synopsis: Nelson describes conducting experiments on live subjects, swamp rabbits and cottontails, to assess the lethal potential of oil spills.

Keywords: Death; Died; Experiments; Lethal; Oil; Pits; Poison; Rabbits; Radio telemetry; Slough; Studies; Study; Tracking; Transmitter collars

Subjects: Environmental protection; Environmentalism; Hazardous wastes; Pollution.; Wildlife conservation.

00:56:01 - Contacting Governor Brown's administration to address oil pollution in bottoms

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Partial Transcript: Okay, in the fall of, uh, 1980 when John Y Brown was governor, he had appointed Mrs. Jackie Sweigart...

Segment Synopsis: Nelson describes step by step the process of contacting Governor Brown's administration, providing maps, and conducting surveys to address oil pollution.

Keywords: Bottoms; Environmentalists; Governor John Y. Brown; Jackie Sweigart; Kentucky Audubon Council; Maps; Oil pits; Pipelines; Pumping; Salt water; Sites; Tanks; Waste pits; Western Kentucky Office of Water Quality

Subjects: Conservation of natural resources--Law and legislation; Environmental law.; Environmental protection; Environmentalism; Hazardous wastes; Kentucky--Politics and government; Politicians--Kentucky; Pollution.; Water quality.

01:07:04 - Oil pits are closed

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Partial Transcript: So are you saying that in effect, the Division of Water did have the authority all along to close them down...

Segment Synopsis: Nelson describes the closing of the oil pits and attributes the success to Governor Brown's administration.

Keywords: Bottoms; Compliance; Department of Environmental Protect and Natural Resources; Division of Water; Frankfort (Ky.); Governor John Y. Brown; Jackie Sweigart; Oil pollution; Smith Mills

Subjects: Conservation of natural resources--Law and legislation; Environmental law.; Environmental protection; Environmentalism; Hazardous wastes; Kentucky--Politics and government; Politicians--Kentucky; Pollution.

01:10:11 - Changes in industrial practices / Who gets credit for stopping pollution

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Partial Transcript: So what did the industry have to do instead?

Segment Synopsis: Nelson lists actions taken to clean up the pollution in Daviess and Henderson counties. He recounts a story about who is perceived as being responsible for the cleanup.

Keywords: Bird watching; Cleanup; Louisville (Ky.); Oil wells; Paint; Salt water; Slough

Subjects: Daviess County (Ky.); Environmental protection; Environmentalism; Hazardous wastes; Henderson County (Ky.); Pollution.

01:16:12 - Awareness of mineral rights

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Partial Transcript: How man, how, how many cases were the, um--when the drilling was being done in the farm land...

Segment Synopsis: Nelson briefly offers his opinion about homeowners being aware of mineral and oil rights for land they purchase.

Keywords: Broad form deeds; Coal; Drilling; Farm land; Leasing; Mineral rights; Oil; Rights

Subjects: Coal mines and mining--Law and legislation; Land use, Rural--Kentucky

01:17:19 - Students confront oil company pollution

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned before, um, we started taping, a couple college students tried to help.

Segment Synopsis: Nelson recounts an incident in which two birdwatchers found oil pollution and confronted the company, which threatened retaliation.

Keywords: Arrested; Audubon Society; Birds; Clean-up; Containment; Creeks; John Franson; McClean; Oil; Private land; Students; Trespassing

Subjects: Environmental protection; Environmentalism; Hazardous wastes; Pollution.; Water quality.

01:23:00 - A politician's responsibility to the public and environment

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Partial Transcript: So you're saying also the government you think as a rule has become more responsive to private land owners?

Segment Synopsis: Nelson talks about the responsibility of elected officials to represent the needs of the people and the environment, and suggests that to do otherwise is scandalous and un-American.

Keywords: Desecration; Flag; Land; Private; Public; Resources; Responsibility; Un-American

Subjects: Environmental protection; Environmentalism; Kentucky--Politics and government; Politicians--Kentucky; Pollution.